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Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day.

22 April 2020 4 comments

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April 21: Day 27 of living in lock-down…

The second-best possible news; testing has revealed only five new cases. If this keeps up, we might – might ! – be down to zero by the time we move to Level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.

Except… the good news was marred by the death of another person; a 70 year old woman from a rest home in Te Atatu.

Also marred by an asinine response from our benighted Leader of the Opposition, yesterday, which has raised a storm of anger from thousands of New Zealanders.

And marred by a revelation that has raised my anger and left me wondering if I should have bothered with all the precautions and sacrifice that I (and hundreds of thousands of other New Zealanders) have made over the last few weeks…

My usual trip into town yielded my usual observations of commercial vehicles as well as ordinary cars. Traffic seemed sparse; no heavier or lighter than usual. Which is a good sign that people are not taking the planned move to Level 3 as an invitation to leave their lock-down en masse.

In fact, the number of cars at the nearby Park N Ride had dropped from the usual three to two. The wide variety of commercial vehicles, though, ranged from what were clearly essential to more questionable status. Such as the “Directionz” van parked outside a closed McDonalds outlet: “Directionz” deals in commercial signage, traffic signs, and graffiti removal.

The ship spotted in the harbour yesterday was still in position, station-keeping in the same spot;

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It may be there for quite a while: they have twelve more days of quarantine.

In town, there was road-works in Vivian Street;

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Essential emergency work?

And yet more roadworks in Wellington. This time at  The Cutting in Miramar;

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Note the photo immediately above. Look to the left of the white truck. Here’s a close-up;

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If that’s two metre social distancing in a workplace setting, then obviously I’ve been taught the metric system incorrectly.

This is why I reject calls from the National Party, ACT, and various sundry business lobby groups to allow all retailers to open, and let them practice “safe social distancing” while trading. I call ‘bollocks’ on that. I also share  similar reservations that safe social distancing can be managed during a Level 3 lock-down where non-contact business activity and trading will be permitted.

So far I see precious little “safe social distancing” even in the limited activities that are publicly visible. (See also busy aisles at Kilbirnie Pak N Save here:  Life in Lock Down: Day 23)

Then there was this from Opposition Leader Simon Bridges on his Facebook page;

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Take these two sentences;

“The public has done a great job of self-isolating and social distancing. The entire country has made huge sacrifices to ensure the four week lockdown was effective.

Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric.”

When Transport Agency data shows road traffic down between 73 and 82% from a year ago, that’s a fairly strong indication that the over-whelming majority of New Zealanders are doing the right thing.  It suggests they trust this government and the leadership to be implementing policies that will, in the long run, save lives.

The fact that new cases have been trending downward for the last two weeks, until we now stand at only five is a clear sign we are going in the right direction.

PM Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have been in our living rooms for the last four weeks, almost night after night, and most New Zealanders have grown to trust them as a steady pair of hands.

So when Simon Bridges attacks the government and the leadership of the immensely popular Prime Minister and highly respected Dr Bloomfield, then he is basically “giving the finger” to the entire country.

Which is why around 82% of the stats to his post are in some way negative;

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The responses were ferocious in condemnation.

The country has been in lock-down for nearly four weeks. Our lives have been disrupted. Thirteen people have died (with one in Peru). Thousand have lost their jobs. Four weeks lock-down was an impromptu “holiday” – like being stuck in your hotel room while a tropical storm lashes your area for the entire time of your stay. Not much fun.

People are cranky. They are pissed off at those who flout the rules so they can have a good time while the rest of us tow-the-line. We want normalcy. We want to walk into a supermarket and not have to keep two sodding metres away from everyone – just in case.

So for Mr Bridges to lob his on-line “grenade” at the government was not just an attack on said government and Ministry officials – but also a snide dig at all of us. Despite stating “New Zealanders can be proud of the sacrifices they have made during this difficult time“, he was effectively dismissing those sacrifices as utterly meaningless.

Simon Bridges not only failed to “read the room” – he was in the wrong bloody building!

The more comments he makes along the lines of his Facebook post yesterday (21 April), the more entrenched will be the public view of him as someone not fit to lead us in time of crisis.

And then, this evening  on RNZ Checkpoint, came revelations that Air New Zealand air crew were returning from overseas flights – and not quarantining on arrival – despite several staff having been infected by covid19;

 

Air New Zealand is keeping secret the number of its staff infected with Covid-19 amid allegations it is not doing enough to keep its workers safe.

The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver. 

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule. 

For more than a week, Checkpoint has repeatedly asked Air New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield for the number of Air NZ staff who have tested positive for Covid-19.

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New Zealand’s biggest Covid-19 coronavirus cluster is the Bluff wedding, where the virus has spread to nearly 100 people and killed two, including the groom’s father.

The cluster has been officially linked to overseas travel. An Air NZ flight attendant who had just returned from the United States and had already been exposed to Covid-19 was at the wedding reception. 

“On 19 March, NZ5 arrived at Auckland from LAX on which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19, at least two crew later tested positive. A crew member from that flight, before testing positive, went down to Bluff to attend a wedding, and now we all know about the ‘Bluff cluster’,” an Air NZ employee told Checkpoint. 

Four days before that, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced compulsory 14-day self-isolation for anyone arriving in New Zealand from anywhere in the world, excluding the Pacific. 

Despite the clampdown, Air NZ crew remained exempt at the time and have largely maintained that exemption throughout the pandemic.

On Monday 20 April, Air NZ’s Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson told Checkpoint it was his understanding the exemption had continued. 

That is despite employees repeatedly raising concerns that the lack of isolation for returning crews was endangering them and other people, Checkpoint has learned. 

A letter sent to Air NZ management earlier in April starkly laid out the issue: 

“An Air New Zealand flight arrived at Auckland from which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19. One in each class throughout the aircraft. Four crew later tested positive. 

“Another crew member from that same flight, before testing positive, attended meetings, then embarked on a four-night tour of duty. 

“One of those meetings was attended by yourself. If the 14-day separation rule was in place, that crew member would have remained in self-isolation at home and would not have placed other members of the community or colleagues at risk of Covid-19.” 

Ministry of Health guidelines exempt aircrew from 14-day stand downs between different flights as long as they appear healthy, but the same letter noted these protocols are minimum guidelines. 

 

Note the part where it says “as long as they appear healthy“.

From the Ministry of Health’s own website;

“Symptoms take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”

I was dumbfounded when I heard the story. (Audio version here.) Dumbfounded and furious.

For the last four weeks my partner and I have studiously observed the lock-down rules. We  have kept separate “bubbles” (we do not live in the same houses). We keep grocery shopping to a minimum , observing the 2 metre distancing rule. We don’t go to the beach. We stay home. And when I go to work, I go directly to the facilities I work at; do my job; then come home.

But according to Air New Zealand, they permit their staff to work overseas and then return to this country and wander around freely.  Dozens  of their air crew staff are walking around our major cities. If any carry the contagion, they will be oblivious to it.

Some have already been stricken by the virus.

But Air New Zealand won’t tell us.

We could get the daily rate of new cases down to zero by Friday – only to have new infection clusters blow up at any time because an Air New Zealand crew member brought it back into our country.

Remember: “A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”

Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson must act on this.

  •  We need to know how many Air New Zealand staff have had the virus.
  •  We need to have this practice of non-quarantining cease immediately.
  • And the CEO of Air New Zealand might as well take the next flight out of this country and not come back.

Once again, Air New Zealand has screwed us over. As if the Erebus disaster and subsequent cover-up hadn’t been enough of a stain on their reputation.

God help us, was Simon Bridges right?

“Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric”

Minister Robertson cannot ignore this shambles. It is putting us all at risk.

We’ve already had one death from a transmission by an Air New Zealand staffer.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,445

Cases in ICU: 3  (0 critical)

Number of deaths: 13

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References

Facebook: Simon Bridges – 20.4.20

RNZ:  Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) – health advice for the general public

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption (audio)

RNZ: Covid-19 – What happened in New Zealand on 21 April

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog:  Simon Bridges horrifically misreads the mood of the Nation – he may as well urinate on an ANZAC grave

The Standard:  When Bridges’ social media goes wrong

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 26

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Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 22 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 21

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April 15: Day 21 of living in lock-down…

Washing machine hose replaced, I can get through a week’s worth of laundry. Washed, hung out to dry. Though our world has been turned on it’s axis to a strange new reality, the mundane things in life (mostly) carry on. Dirty laundry waits for no virus.

Listened to to National Party Leader Simon Bridges this morning on RNZ’s Morning Report.

Firstly, Mr Bridges: for the love of Thor, please stop thrashing the word “agile”.

Secondly, his “mixed messages” of re-opening business “next week” and “and safely letting more business and workers get back onto it” should ring alarm bells in us all.

Without much doubt, he was representing, and speaking for, business interests:

“When we think about the health effect of staying in lockdown, I’m coming to a pretty clear view … that we should come out of lockdown next week and we should be working to safely to get businesses and workers back.

I do want to get to (alert level) 2 … we are trying to get that business and work back, but … I am realistic. I am not suggesting suddenly that we are going to be at 2 overnight. I do say though that we should be agile and trying to get there.

I’d say when the Cabinet makes the decision next week, I’d opt for coming out and safely letting more business and workers get back onto it because the consequences of not doing it are so harmful.”

The social and health consequences of rampant unemployment are intolerable.”

Mr Bridges pointed to the Australian experience with covid19 as some sort of model to follow;

“I do look at that Australian experience where baristas are still making coffee and builders are still building and they’re getting the same sort of health outcomes as us…”

When Corin Dann pointed out their death rate was highter, Mr Bridges dismissed the figures;

“Well, yes, look, you can make your comparisons… and, and, and, actually, you go, um, um, total numbers are very similar, fatalities I would argue are similar…”

No, Mr Bridges, you cannot “argue” with numbers. Numbers are numbers. “Six” is similar to “seven” only in that one follows the other. “Nine” is likewise not even remotely similar to “sixtyone” – they aren’t even close.

“Nine” is the number of deaths announced yesterday (14 April) in New Zealand.

“Sixtyone” is the latest number of deaths in Australia.

To put these numbers in context:

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Despite Australia being five times our population, their reported death rate is seven times ours.

Is that the country we should be emulating? One would have thought it would be the other way around. I know New Zealanders have a self-deprecating, cringe-culture thing going on, but looking at another country with a higher mortality rate than ours is taking that to a whole new lethal level.

We should be proud of what we have achieved. Not look overseas to model on a situation that has a higher death rate than ours. (Well, not unless Mr Bridges has a secret agenda to thin the population by knocking of Granny, Grandad, all the diabetics, immuno-compromised, and probably a few of the healthy ones and young’uns. Then it all makes perfect sense.)

I have mulled over Simon Bridges’ comments and his past utterances. He claims to be “tough” on covid19 by demanding more stringent border controls;

“Today’s move to limit mass gatherings was a positive step forward from the Government and I urge it to now go further and close our borders. The EU has closed its borders but it was too late to stop widespread community outbreak. We can’t make the same mistake. We are a small isolated nation and we should take advantage of our geographical position.”

Except… Closing our borders is a fait accompli. There is almost no more international air travel  except for military and mercy-flights. Tourism has collapsed. Governments, businesses, NGOs, non-profit organisations, etc, no longer send their people to conferences. Families remain separated.

The skies are all but empty. (Stand in Miramar, Strathmore, or Kilbirnie in Wellington in the evening. Hear anything? No, neither did I tonight. It was an eerie total silence not heard since the airport was built  in Wellington.)

There is no one to stop at our borders because (with the except of mercy flights) no one is coming. So in effect, Mr Bridges’ call is meaningless;  he’s demanding something that’s already happened. No real investment required in that particular decision making.

What is troubling is his call to re-open the economy and drop down to Level 2.

Make no mistake. Simon Bridges has gone from being a clownish, slightly-irritating figure we love to ridicule – to a frightening politician who could do irreparable harm and perhaps cause fatalities if he was anywhere near the Ninth Floor and his open-the-doors-at-any-expense policies implemented.

We should understand one thing: he has pressing concerns and a clear agenda. Very little of which includes our safety.

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This afternoon, we watched the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, give their daily 1pm public briefing. The news was good(ish). A slight rise in new cases – 20 –  but most importantly, no more deaths. There was a silent sigh of relief amongst us.

The fact that the contagion has entered aged care facilities  is troubling. While ours is not an aged care facility, our clients do have varying levels of health and under-lying conditions. I don’t quite know how, but we’ve dodged the viral bullet thus far.

On the way home tonight, I stepped out from the side door of the facility I work at. It was another still, unearthly quiet evening.

Except for some knocking on a door on some flats adjacent to us. A middle aged (late 50s, 60s?) pakeha gent, in working clothes and a red baseball cap was standing there, tapping away with his hands. As I walked past, he turned to look at me. I looked at him. Or rather, his red baseball cap. It was a “MAGA” cap.

The lettering was starkly visible in the porch light; “Make Ardern Go Away”.

I had not seen him at the flats before this night (and I’ve worked at the facility for over a year and a half). The “MAGA”-hat wearing fellow was almost certainly breaking his “bubble”.

I have news for him, and it’s not good. Ms Ardern will not “Go Away”. And it probably won’t make the virus go either.

Later this night, as I drove back home, I realised I could no longer defer my weekly shopping. Visiting the supermarket has now become a thing of dread. When did going to Pak N Save become like venturing onto a battlefield, fearing the next bullet or bomb that would snuff out my life?

Especially as I had latex gloves, but my remaining two face-masks were back at the facility I work at.

Of all the things that I find disturbing (aside from the deaths of people who’ve fallen victim to this invisible enemy), is venturing into a public place that I have little choice in visiting. The moment I walk through the sliding doors, my senses are on high alert. I have to be wary of people around me. Most keep to their two  metre space-bubble, but with difficulty. Even supermarket aisles are difficult to maintain that spacing.

Some don’t care or forget.

And if I’m 100% truthful, on one ocassion, I was in the latter group. I forgot the etiquette; and walked to closely past a gentleman who let me in on an adjacent check-out queue. I deserved the stare he gave me.

I don’t want this hideous wary-existence to continue. But if it’s to save lives, I’ll choose Level 4 over Level 2 any day.

So should Simon Bridges.

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Postscript

Check out the legend – TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrickwho publicly made a fool out of National’s Leader.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,386

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 9

 

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References

RNZ:  National Party leader Simon Bridges calls for work to restart ‘safely’ after lockdown

BBC:  Coronavirus – Nurse Areema Nasreen dies with Covid-19

Gulf News:  Coronavirus – Healthy 13-year-old boy becomes UK’s youngest COVID-19 death

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus: Simon Bridges calls for complete border shutdown for all non-residents

Twitter: Chris Change – Kevin Kenrick – 15 April 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 update – 20 new cases, no further deaths reported

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 16 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 3

29 March 2020 27 comments

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Lock Down: Day 3 – A photo essay with observations

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March 28: First day of the first weekend in Lock Down. It feels like it’s been weeks since only Level 3 was declared last Tuesday, only four days ago.

Woke up this morning to RNZ; coffee; toast, pat and fed my companion animal. Finished off Day 2 blogpost in time to watch Newshub Nation. Listened to Dr Sandhya Ramanathan describe the extraordinary lengths to carefully decontaminate before and after leaving her hospital,  followed by further decon-protocols at her home.

It made the precautions we are taking for our clients seem so utterly amateurish. But considering my employers (a nationwide NGO) have no Pandemic Policy in place that I’m aware off, we’ve used our initiative and common sense.

Political commentators Neale Jones and Matthew Hooton were both singing from the same “song sheet”. There’s nothing quite like an amoral, apolitical, non-sentient deadly virus to focus the mind.

As I begin this blogpost, it was raining  heavily. Normally not a weather situation I’d be happy with, but today and for the next three weeks, it is a blessing from Nature. It may help keep people off the streets, parks, beaches, etc, and (except for short walks in their immediate area) stay at home;

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I won’t be driving around today to observe what others are doing. Which restricts my reporting, but if I’m to follow my own demands of others – I stay home. Aside from short walks along my own road, observing strict two metre rule, staying home means staying home.

Which made some of the emails/txts read out by Kim Hill all that much difficult to stomach. Idiots were justifying why the rules did not apply to them and why, as surfers and mountain bikers, they were more expert at judging risk than all the medical professions in the world.

As at today, the number of covid19 cases in Aotearoa New Zealand has jumped by eightythree cases and now stands at 451.

But these thrill seeking morons on surf boards and mountain bikes seem to think they are bullet proof? Or virus proof?

I can only surmise these surfers and bikers have had a few to many knocks to their soft skulls.

Spent the day…

Breakfast (coffee, toast with tomato and toast with fresh, ripe fig).

 

Shower. Coffee.

 

Watched “Newshub Nation“. Sent “tweet” to “Nation” producers; “Anyone else thanking the gods that production of masks is a local NZ industry and not “exported” to overseas manufacturers… like China?

Twitter

 

Brunch. Coffee.

 

Twitter

 

Finish Day 2 of “Living under the Lock Down“.

 

Twitter.

 

Elevenses

 

Watched Seth Myers on Youtube calling out Trump for his lack of action on the virus epidemic hitting the US. Evidently, Trump’s approval ratings now stands at 49 to 60%, of  Americans saying he’s doing a “good job“. Wait till the body count starts to mount up, and footage of body bags fills the evening television news. Footage like that killed public support for American involvement in the Vietnam War.

 

Lunch

 

Twitter

 

Listened to Ministry of Health press conference. Covid19 cases now up to 451. Two are in ICU. John Ombler, the All of Government Controller, was blunt when he called out spectacularly moronic behaviour from some people;

“I have heard today that some people were playing touch rugby and frisbee in parks, that’s just stupid. People need to stop doing that sort of thing. COVID can transfer on a frisbee from one person to another. With touch rugby, it is quite obvious. Please, don’t do it. Don’t be stupid.”

Twitter

 

Email to my organisation regarding possible ‘re-jigging’ of our rosters and number of clients we attend to. (The fewer clients, the smaller our ‘bubble’.)

 

Twitter

 

Afternoon tea

 

Twitter. A bit of laundry washing.

 

4.30PM: Did I just see what I think I saw out my window? Guy drives up in white canopied hilux ute. Ute has a company logo on the side relating to an early childhood company;

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Guy goes inside a house, by himself. Comes out about ten minutes later with two children (around 8 to 10 years old?). Woman comes with them. Was she providing a child care service? Were they a separated couple? Whichever the case, it appears that two children are moving between two adults, as well as both having adult-to-adult contact.

I sincerely hope they constitute one “bubble”. What is the likelihood?

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Twitter

 

Late afternoon tea

 

Watched 6PM TV1 News. Shouted myself to a bowl of (sugar free) chocolate ice cream.

 

7PM: Went for walk around my block. Weather was autumnal, overcast, chilly, but had stopped raining. Must have seen five other human beings in my walk. One followed the two metre distance perfectly, giving me a wide circle; gave him a wave, cheery smile, and a big “Thank You!”

I usually pick up plastic detritus along the way; bottles, tops, coffee cup lids, straws, lollypop sticks, etc. Tonight I touched nothing. Not worth the risk.

The Kiwirail Park’n’Ride carpark was utterly empty. Not even one vehicle;

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Came home, put on Julee Cruise CD for some soft-but-dark background music. When the world feels like it’s falling apart (due in no short part to the human tendency for self-destructive dumbness), you want an appropriate soundtrack. Either Ms Cruise or Smashing Pumpkins’ “The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning“.

9PM(ish): Phoned my partner. We don’t live together and because I work in the community, with a larger-than-desirable-“bubble”, we have decided to isolate from each other. She has her “bubble”, I have mine. If I catch covid19 – which is more likely than her getting it – I won’t be able to infect her. So for one month, we chat over the phone but nothing more.

I work in the community and am at higher risk than most others. We are foregoing contact to mitigate risk to her.  All these things, we do because it is necessary.

So people will excuse me and understand why when I see others casually disregarding keeping to a “bubble”; not observing the two-metre protocol;  enjoying themselves with frisbees, surfing, boating, and other thoughtless behaviour… I am more than a wee bit miffed. Their’s is the sharp end of self-entitlement.

Watched some America news channel news clips on You Tube. The slow disintergration of the United States is like a driving past a vast car pile-up on the motor-way; grimly fascinating. You don’t want to watch the carnage… but you can’t help yourself, wondering what is next.

With my companion cat on my lap, time for a brief check on Twitter. Received lovely compliment re Day 2 of my Lock Down diary. Sent back reply.

And then… This;

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Simon Bridges just can’t f*****g help himself, can he?!?

I responded;

Come on,Mr Bridges,really?!There are umpteen sources of news. Closing nonessential ones -even if distasteful- may save lives If you have concerns,do what adults do: talk to each other. Its what youre paid to do Ive stopped using the nationalnotfittogovern. You stop politicking

Time for bed.  Maybe read another chapter of SS-GB, an alternative Earth history novel by Len Deighton. Then lights out and see what tomorrow brings. TVNZ’s Q+A is on at 9AM, then…?

Meanwhile…

For those people who do not understand the manner in which contagion spreads, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist sums it up in simple terms;

“Because people can spread the virus for a few days before they have any symptoms, each person who contracts the virus can unwittingly pass it on to several of their whānau, friends and colleagues. Then each one of them can unwittingly pass it on to several of their whānau, friends and colleagues. This means that if, left unchecked, the number of cases grows exponentially. This is what we are seeing in so many countries overseas. Spinoff cartoonist Toby Morris’s illustration of that concept has circled the globe in recent days.” – Siouxsie Wiles, 26 March 2020

And for those simple souls who still don’t get it, illustrator Toby Morris has drawn a pretty picture with crayons;

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References

Newshub Nation:  I don’t want to be a hero, I want to live

Twitter: JackyNinjaKitty – “Stay at Home” – 28 March 2020

RNZ: Coronavirus – 83 new cases in New Zealand, two patients in intensive care

NPR:  Trump’s Approval Hits New High, But A Rally-Around-The-Flag Effect Is Small

US History:  The Vietnam War

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Infected being abused online, Kiwis ignoring rules by playing sport

Twitter: Simon Bridges – closure community papers – 28 March 2020

The Spinoff:  Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris – You’re waking up in lockdown New Zealand. Here’s how it works

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

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Acknowledgement: Slane

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This blogpost was published on The Daily Blog on 29 March 2020.

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National and petrol taxes – when journalists gets it right

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It’s not often that it happens, but every so often one will stumble across examples of journalism that probes deeper than the immediacy of the here-and-now, and actually takes a step back in very recent history to put political events and utterances into context.

National’s desperation to remain relevant involves a two-pronged strategy to promote Simon Bridges as Prime-Minister-in-waiting and to portray the current coalition government as tax-and-spend and wasteful with our tax-dollars.

With Mr Bridges at 6% in the polls, the first of National’s strategy is stuck firmly in a political mire. The public do not seem to like and/or trust the current National leader. His constant barking-at-every-passing-car and relentless negativity (without proposing alternative solutions) is problematic and his hyper-critical, carping style is a major turn-off with voters.

The second prong of National’s grand strategy – to throw as much mud as possible at every part of the Coalition’s activities – continues at full-throttle. It’s success is yet to be determined.

National’s current attack focuses on  petrol prices, with the Opposition and it’s leader blaming the Coalition for high fuel prices. This despite Gull NZ’s general manager, Dave Bodger, stating that lack of competition was the deciding factor in fuel pricing, not government taxes;

“That restricts the supply, which inflates the price, especially if you look in parts of the South Island and areas where there’s not as great competition; the consumer is paying a lot more than they are in other places.”

The Commerce Commission’s recent investigation and report into the fuel industry criticised excessive profit-taking by some petrol companies. As Commerce Commission chairperson, Anna Rawlings stated unambiguously;

“Our preliminary findings suggest that many fuel companies are earning returns on investment that are higher than what we would consider a reasonable return to be.”

Those facts did not prevent National from issuing countless press statements and bombarding social media to smear the Coalition as culpable for high petrol prices;

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Fairfax/Stuff journalist, Henry Cooke, reported Simon Bridges’ attack-point verbatim;

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“I agree with Jacinda Ardern that New Zealanders are being fleeced, but the reality of this is the biggest fleecer isn’t the petrol companies, it’s Jacinda Ardern and her Government. Jacinda Ardern is the fleecer-in-chief.”

But then, Mr Cooke, took a further step. He delved into the past and with a few clicks of research, offered readers some further salient facts;

He said fuel taxes were rising by 24c over this Government’s term, compared to just 17c over nine years of National. But this figure included the 11.5c Regional Fuel Tax which is only charged in Auckland – where fuel is typically cheaper than other parts of the country – and did not include the GST rise his Government brought in.

National raised fuel taxes six times over nine years in Government, raising the price by 17c in total. The National Government also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 per cent.

The Labour Government has raised the excise by 7c so far this term and will raise it by another 3.5c in July next year. 

Which helps put current fuel excise rises into some context, when a journalist reminds readers that National was not averse to doing precisely what it self-righteously condemns the Coalition government for doing.

Not forgetting that as well as raising GST (despite promising not to do so), National’s tax-grab reached deep into the pockets of newspaper boys and girls, in a desperate effort to balance their books and make up for billions of dollars squandered in two tax cuts.

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Simon Bridges’ hypocrisy was underscored when Henry Cooke finished his story with the National Party leader’s comments;

Asked if he would cut excise taxes if elected he was non-commital, saying he would need to have a better look at the books when coming to Government.

He stood by the general user-pay system in transport, whereby fuel taxes fund major new roading infrastructure, rather than the general tax take.

The public’s collective eye-rolling at Mr Bridges’ “bob-each-way” explains why he is on 6% in the polls. This is not a politician who “means what he says, and says what he means”.

The following day, on Radio NZ’s deputy political editor, Craig McCulloch, also took National to task on its criticism over fuel excise taxes.

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On Checkpoint, on 21 August, Mr McCulloch  presented listeners with a refresher course in recent political history;

“By the end of it’s three year term, the [Coalition] government will have put up petrol taxes by ten and a half cents, not including the eleven and a half cent regional fuel tax in Auckland.

When National was in charge it put up taxes by seventeen cents, but over a much longer nine year period. But National also increased GST from 12.5% to 15.”

Embarrassing stuff.

Mediaworks/Newshub had also pointed out the same hypocrisy from Nation, but a few months earlier. Dan Satherley and Lisette Reymer reported in early July;

Between 2008 and 2017 National raised petrol taxes six times, usually by 3c – Simon Bridges was Transport Minister for three of those years. They also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 percent.

But more conspicuously, despite considerable media exposure; spending considerable effort and money on wide-reaching social media propagandising, aside from the Auckland regional fuel tax,  National leader Simon Bridges has refused to state if he would repeal the Coalition’s fuel tax excise increases;

“Right now, in the Transport Budget, they have dramatic underspends. I wouldn’t put the [taxes] on, my inclination would be to not have them, but if you are already there and they are already there, there is no way I am putting more on.”

That’s because last year, Mediaworks/Newshub pointed out that National and Labour have both increased fuel excise taxes by almost the same amount. (Though it is unclear from  the infograph below if Mediaworks/Newshub have factored in National’s GST increase in 2010.)

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It’s a fair bet that National will not be using the above infographic in any of their attack ads. Too close to the inconvenient truth for one thing.

It’s also a fair bet that National will retain the Coalition’s excise fuel tax increases; add a few of their own; and then offer a “neutral tax switch”. That’s because National believes in user-pays for most, if not all government services. In 2014 the NZ Labour Party kindly put together a list of just some of those government service fees increases;

  1. GST increase from 12.5% to 15%
  2. Increased taxes on KiwiSaver
  3. Compulsory student loan payment increase from 10% to 12%
  4. Increased tertiary fees
  5. The 2012 ‘Paperboy’ tax
  6. Civil Aviation Authority fees rise
  7. Additional fuel tax increase of 9 cents with annual CPI increases locked in for perpetuity
  8. Road User Charges increased
  9. New annual student loan fees introduced
  10. Massive unnecessary ACC levy increases
  11. Prescription fees increased by 66%
  12. New online company filing fees imposed on businesses
  13. Creeping expansion of the scope of Fringe Benefit Taxes – National tried to tax car parks and plain-clothes police uniforms
  14. Lowering of Working for Families abatement threshold and increasing the abatement rate, taking money out of the pockets of families
  15. Imposing a $900 Family Court fee

Whether fees for DoC huts and tracks, the Family Courts, ACC, roading, etc, National has never been averse to loading costs of those services onto individual users – whilst then cutting income taxes.

This is precisely what they did from 2009 to 2017.

We can expect more of the same from National should they be returned to power.

In the meantime, kudos to Henry Cooke, Craig McCulloch, and other journalists, for  delving into National’s past track record on this issue. This is the sort of journalism the public rightly demand – not simply cutting-and-pasting Party press releases.

The media should now press Mr Bridges harder on this issue: will he repeal Labour’s fuel excise tax increases or not? It’s a simple enough question. After all, he was 100% adamant that National would scrap any Capital Gains Tax if it became government;

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If Simon Bridges wanted the increased fuel excise taxes dumped, there is no reason on Earth why he wouldn’t commit. The fact is that National supports user-pays charges and their claims of being champions for “Kiwi battlers” is populist rubbish. National’s plans are blindingly obvious;

  • increase user pays charges, excise taxes, etc
  • cut personal income taxes – especially for the wealthy

Hence why Mr Bridges has said repeatedly;

“We will not introduce any new taxes during our first term.”

The caveat, Ifs, Buts, and fine print underlying that statement should not be lost on anyone.

If the (current) Leader of the National Party cannot be straight up with voters as to what his intentions are (on any issue!), then he cannot be trusted to lead this country.

For Simon Bridges, the timer on his political career is counting – downward.

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Postscript 1

Fuel prices in New Zealand Aotearoa from 2005 to 2019:

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A bit embarrassing for National: fuel was more expensive during their term in office. New Zealanders cannot afford a National government it would appear.

Postscript 2

Interesting to note that National’s spin doctors appear to have ‘borrowed from my “That was Then, This is Now” memes on which to base their own “What she said, What she did” propaganda;

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But we’re all aware by now that National is not averse to ‘borrowing’  from other peoples’ creative efforts – without paying.

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References

NZ Herald: Latest political poll – National rises against Labour, with 45 against 43 in 1 News Colmar Brunton poll

RNZ: Fuel prices – Government urged to free up wholesale market

Fairfax/Stuff media: Jacinda Ardern says New Zealanders are being ripped off over petrol

National Party: Axe the Tax

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 5.52 PM, Jul 24, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 6.26 AM, Aug 23, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 7.15 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – petrol prices – taxes – 2.49 PM, Aug 20, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 10.25 AM, Jul 1, 2018

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 9.40 AM, Jun 30, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – 4.05 PM, Aug 29, 2018

Fairfax/Stuff media: Petrol prices – Simon Bridges says Jacinda Ardern is ‘fleecer-in-chief’

Fairfax/Stuff media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax/Stuff media: Young workers out of pocket

RNZ: Blame game in Parliament over high petrol prices (audio-link)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fuel tax hike – How much it might cost you

Mediaworks/Newshub: National’s Simon Bridges refuses to say he will overturn new petrol tax increase

TVNZ/One News: National promise no new taxes and repeal of Auckland fuel tax in first term

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fact check – Who taxed your petrol the most – Labour or National?

Fairfax/Stuff media: Trampers torn on price hike for New Zealand’s Great Walks

RNZ: DoC fees rise

Labour Party: At least 15 new taxes under National

Scoop media: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

National Party: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

Twitter: Simon Bridges – no ifs no buts no caveats – 6 March 2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – tax cuts – 2.58 PM, Jan 30, 2019

Otago Daily Times – National: No new taxes in the first term

NZ Herald: National Party found guilty of Eminem copyright breach

Addition

Fairfax/Stuff media: Intolerance fed by wrong and hateful assumptions is all the rage right now

Fairfax/Stuff media: National’s ‘desperate’ attack ads to be investigated by Advertising Standards Authority

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

Simon Bridges: “No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 August 2019.

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Judith Collins – Foot in Mouth Award? Or something more sinister?

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Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister in the previous John Key government, Judith Collins, has been ridiculed on social media after posting a comment on Twitter that was patently untrue;

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Wrong!! National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted. Restoring prisoners’ right to vote still not a priority – Andrew Little | Newshub

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Ms Collins stated-as-fact “National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted“.

Twitter posters were quick to point out that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was indeed a National government Bill. The Bill was introduced by then-National MP, Paul Quinn, on 10 February 2010.

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Mr Quinn’s Bill passed it’s third reading on 8 December 2010, with National’s fiftyeight MPs and ACT’s five MPs voting it into law.

Labour, the Greens, the Māori Party, Jim Anderton (as the Progressive Party), and Peter Dunne (as the United Future)  voted against the Bill. Contrary to Ms Collins advising people to “note where NZF voted” – New Zealand First was not even present in Parliament at the time.

The Bill received Royal Assent from the Governor General seven days later, formally becoming the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010.

Ms Collins was wrong in almost every respect in her August 12, 2019  Twitter post: the law was National’s from beginning to end.

Her blunder (or wilful misrepresentation) was compounded when her Leader, Simon Bridges, publicly confirmed Ms Collins’ “tweet” as mis-information;

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It’s our law – we believed in it then and we still believe in it so we will oppose change. Quite simply if you do a crime that’s serious enough for jail you lose a number of rights, including most importantly your liberty, but also we think it’s right while you’re in prison you lose that right to vote.”

Simon Bridges’ statement owning the 2010 law change made Judith Collins look like a complete fool. She was lucky that her Twitter post did not gain wider media and public traction. (Those two really need to talk more often.)

This is not the first time Ms Collins has publicly mis-represented an issue. In August last year, Ms Collins used social media to promote a bogus ‘story’ from a fake news site;

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The mainstream media coverage was brutal in condemnation;

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Ms Collins was unrepentant, resorting to verbal gymnastics to defend her ‘right’ to spread lies;

I still share them because, actually, I don’t believe in censorship on people’s ideas.”

And politicians wonder why the public do not trust politicians?

National’s current Leader, Simon Bridges, made no attempt to reprimand his MP, saying;

“I’ve liked things before, actually genuinely accidentally. I think when you’re scrolling through things, you know that’s created its own little controversy. I think in this case Judith Collins feels strongly about the issue, that’s legitimate. But it is a wrong source, she acknowledges that, and we should in general try and get them right.”

The reason that Mr Bridges failed to tell Ms Collins to remove her fake news post was simple and had little to do with fearing a challenge from his errant MP.

Ms Collins, along with every other National MP and Party apparatchik are presently engaged in a Trumpesque campaign to win next year’s election. Whether this involves half-truths or shonky data, or outright spread of lies – National will do whatever it takes to win.

As Chris Trotter wrote this month (15 August 2019);

“And so it begins, the National Party’s simultaneous descent and ascent. Downwards, into the dark territory of “whatever it takes”. Upwards, into the glare of electoral victory. It’s happening because the party’s present leader has convinced himself that it is only the first movement which makes possible the second.

[…]

That is no small matter. Once truth and propaganda become fused in the minds of one’s followers, debate and discussion become redundant. If one’s opponents are all outrageous liars, then engaging with them in any way is pointless. Rather than waste its time, a political party should, instead, target all its messages at those who have yet to grasp the full mendacity of the other side. Tell these “persuadables” the truth – your truth – before the other parties tell them theirs.”

Whether Ms Collins knew that her comments regarding the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was true or not is utterly irrelevant.

National has entered into a propaganda blitz. They will use half-truths, exaggeration, out-of-context material, distortions, and outright fabrications to win next years’ election.

Whatever it takes.

They will use dog-whistles; throw ‘red-meat’ to bigots; demonise every group that their conservative base despises.

Whatever. It. Takes.

Thus is the style of election campaign strategy set from now till Election Day: Whatever it takes.

With an under-resourced mainstream media, it will be a Herculean task for journalists to keep track of National Party propaganda. It may take a day to fact-check assertions from National MPs – and by then, party apparatchiks will have moved on to the next part of their diabolical strategy. (Though on 29 July, on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report Gyles Beckford challenged National leader Simon Bridges with dogged determination we rarely hear these days. )

Fortunately, they will still fail. New Zealanders, for the most part, don’t take kindly to Trumpian-style politics. And Simon Bridges is certainly no flamboyant Trump.

The only certainty is that Simon Bridges will not be leading the National Party in 2021.

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References

Wikipedia: Judith Collins, Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister

Twitter: Judith Collins – Prisoner Voting – 8:59AM August 12, 2019

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010

Parliament: Paul Quinn

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Wikipedia: NZ First – 2008 General Election

Radio NZ: NZ First tightlipped on prisoners’ voting rights

Twitter: Judith Collins – Fake News Twitter – 12:36 PM  Aug 6, 2018

Mediaworks/Newshub: Judith Collins defends her fake news tweet to Jacinda Ardern

TVNZ: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’ – Judith Collins stands firm over tweeting from ‘fake news’ site

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins defends linking to fake news article on France consent laws

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins digs in heels on fake news story

Radio NZ: Collins on fake news tweet: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’

NewstalkZB: Judith Collins slammed for retweeting fake news

Radio NZ: Collins’ fake news blunder a Bridges fail

Twitter: National Party – manufacturing graph – twitter – 5.24 PM  Aug 16, 2019

The Daily Blog: Chris Trotter – Simon Bridges Leads National Down Into The Dark

National Party: Tell them to go home, Prime Minister (alt.link)

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges criticises govt’s cancer treatment spending

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Prisoner Rights Blogger wins for Human Rights

Green:  Prisoner voting ban needs to be repealed

The Green Blog: Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act

Public Address: Fact-checking Parliament – more prisoners can vote than they think

Werewolf: Robbing the Vote

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The Daily Blog: The madness of Judith Collin’s fake news tweet

The Standard: Is Judith Collins willing to denounce the use of fake news?

The Standard: Of course Judith should #DeleteTheTweet

Previous related blogposts

Twelve fun facts about National’s failed housing policies for Parmjeet Parmar to consider

Democracy denied – Labour’s saddest failing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 August 2019.

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Recycling – National Party style. Something embarrassing about Mr Bridges conference speech uncovered

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Current Leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges gave the usual rah-rah speech to the Loyal & Faithful in Christchurch today (27 July). With National’s party polling and his own personal popularity sliding steadily in the polls, Mr Bridges has not much left to reverse his fortunes.

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The entire Conference was geared toward promoting Simon Bridges to the public.

Even his wife, Natalie Bridges, was pressganged to put in a good word for her husband;

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However, it was Mr Bridges’ speech that really stood out – though not for the right reasons.

When this blogger heard certain parts to it, there was a sense of deja vu. It was as if I had heard the speech before. In fact, listening to other parts of it, I was sure I had.  From eleven years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 30 January 2008, then leader of the National Party, John Key gave his own “State of the Nation” speech, whilst still in Opposition. Mr Key said;

“So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this: Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand? Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday, Simon Bridges said;

“We cannot and will not sit back and think this is as good as it gets. You deserve better, you deserve and are entitled to expect a government that delivers.”

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof? […] We know you cringe at the thought of filling up the car, paying for the groceries, or trying to pay off your credit card. “

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“I feel a deep sense of urgency as I watch this country that I love falter, as I see middle New Zealanders struggling to pay increasing rents and to put petrol in their car.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?”

 

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“A housing market that builds houses.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“The New Zealand that I want to lead will not have a two class health system that provides care for those who can pay and leaves others suffering because they can’t.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“A strong economy means confident thriving businesses that create more jobs and increase incomes.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder…”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We know it’s the men and women of New Zealand that work hard…”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“National has a plan and a track record of getting things done. We are the ones that can manage the economy to ensure it is delivering for you.”

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.”

 

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We are the ones that can manage the economy to ensure it is delivering for you.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“This year, signs are emerging that the winds of global growth have not only stopped but are turning into a head wind.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“All that platitudes and hope have given us is a weakening economy that’s not delivering for anyone.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We are the party of infrastructure.”

 

And there’s more. Read both speeches and the repetition is startling and humourous. As if someone had dusted off past speeches; re-ordered a few words, and then handed it over to Mr Bridges.

Different decade, same bovine excrement. Political manure at it’s best.

This is recycling, done National-style.

Expect more of the same last nine years of National should that party find a coalition partner to propel it over the 50% party vote line.

Which, all humour aside, is a dangerous prospect. With New Zealand – and the entire planet – is facing unprecedented challenges (ie; crises) such as worsening climate change, and resurgent nationalism,  growing from social stresses and dislocation. There are war drums on the horizon.

National has not demonstrated it is a forward-looking political party. It’s “more-of-the-same, business-as-usual” philosophy, as demonstrated by Mr Bridges’ recycled speech,  is simply not tenable.

National’s contempt and constant undermining of policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is a cynical ploy to win votes. It is short-term self-interest, done at the expense of our climate and future generations.

If National can re-cycle a speech from eleven years ago, it clearly demonstrates it has no new ideas.

Check out Simon Bridges’ speech. He does not mention climate change at all. The word “environment” is barely mentioned once, in passing. Even then it is in the context of growing the economy.

National is a relic of a by-gone age. For the 21st Century, it is simply not fit for purpose.

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References

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges: ‘NZ can’t afford another three years of this government’

National Party: Speech to National Party Conference. Our bottom line – You (alt.link)

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

Other blogposts

The Standard:  The weasel accurately dissects National

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 July  2019.

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Simon Bridges: “No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT”

13 March 2019 1 comment

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A recent bold statement from current National Party leader, Simon Bridges, declared his intentions should a capital gains tax (CGT) be enacted;

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…No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT as Prime Minister of New Zealand ” – a statement so categorical that it made John Key’s 2008 commitment never to raise GST, look timid;

“National is not going to be raising GST.

National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes.”

Except, he did.  In October 2010, Key’s National government increased GST from 12.5% to 15%.

Nine years later, Simon Bridges has made a similar, solemn, hand-on-heart, promise: “No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT as Prime Minister of New Zealand“.

Except, he can’t.

On at least several levels, his commitment to repeal a capital gains tax will fail.

Labour’s  Grant Robertson, made it crystal clear that any proposed CGT will not be implemented until after the 2020 general election;

“We know it is important to get this right, so we will balance the need for certainty and urgency by ensuring that any potential changes will not come into effect until the 2021 tax year. This gives multiple opportunities for public input, and a general election before any new tax would come into effect.”

The process would be straight-forward: whatever the Coalition government decides would be put into legislation that would not ‘activate’ until after the next election. It would take a repeal of that legislation to stop CGT from ‘kicking in’.

The difficulty with this is two-fold.

Firstly, Simon Bridges and the National Party would have to achieve a simple little thing: win the next election.

The chances of that happening – with current polling – is marginal, to say the least.

For starters, National has been trailing Labour in the last two political polls.

Secondly, National has no ‘mates’. ACT is consistently in the zero-to-1% band and the faux-Bluegreen Party is nowhere to be seen.

That leaves two parties: the Greens and NZ First.

The Green Party membership would rather machine gun the last remaining Hector’s Dolphins than entertain a “teal” coalition with the Nats. Bridges’ promise to reinstate offshore exploratory drilling for oil and gas would make any potential National-Green coalition toxic and as likely as a flying saucer landing on the White House lawn.

Which leaves NZ First. It is unclear as to what benefit – if any – a coalition deal with the Nats would offer to NZ First. As well as having been the “kiss of death” to other small parties, National has tried to destroy Winston Peters in the past. Peters is unlikely to have forgotten the leaking of his superannuation over-payment and the strong probability that it was engineered by a senior National government minister who shall remain nameless.

Moreover, if this current Coalition Government passes legislation for a capital gains tax to take effect in 2021, that would mean all three parties – Labour, Greens, and NZ First – voting to pass said necessary legislation.

For a National-NZ First Coalition to repeal that legislation would mean NZ First voting against a law that they themselves helped enact.

The fallout with the public would be massive, echoing NZ First’s disastrous decision to form a coalition with National back in 1996. Public support for NZ First would rapidly evaporate.

There would be simply no possible political gain for NZ First to travel down that road.

So unless Simon Bridges can find a new political party to ally with; or, unless National can win 50% outright of the Party Vote in 2020 – both unlikely scenarios – his promise to “repeal this CGT as Prime Minister of New Zealand” cannot be taken seriously.

Indeed, the comments following Bridges’ ‘tweet’ on 6 March reflected the disbelief of such an unlikely event happening.

And more than one social media commentor asked some pertinent questions;

“Does that include the Brightline Test your government introduced?”

And;

“Will you get rid of tax on wages and if not, why not?”

Considering that National introduced a limited capital gains tax – the  two year ‘brightline’ test – in 2015, Bridges would have to make some hard decisions and explanations to the public.

Would the ‘Brightline’ test remain in place if he had an opportunity the scrap the Coalition’s more comprehensive CGT?

Would he return the ‘Brightline’ test to two years or keep it  at five?

How would he justify retaining a ‘Brightline’ test – whether at two or five years – when scrapping a more comprehensive, and justifiably fairer, capital gains tax? Why is one form of CGT acceptable to National, but not the other?

And as more than one person demanded to know, why is National promising to get rid of one tax (Capital gains) which would benefit property speculators – but not income tax, which would benefit every wage and salary earner in the country  (and put a permanent smile on David Seymour’s face that would never be erased)?

Bridges would be facing these questions and more in 2020 if he decided to make capital gains taxation an election issue next year.

All of which is unsurprising: at around 5% in the polls, Bridges faced the ignominy of approaching the margin of error – depressing symbolism to be viewed as an ‘error’ – and over-taken by one of his National MPs, Judith Collins. This has made him that most desperate of beasts; a politician at risk of becoming irrelevant.

No party can hope to win the governing benches with a Leader who is seen as uninspiring and lacking support from even National Party voters.

If Bridges cannot succeed in campaigning to defeat capital gains, his tenure as National’s leader will come to an abrupt end. To be followed in rapid succession by his political career.

A further point has probably not escaped the attention of the National Party: if the Coalition government wins the next election and remains intact, that would signify not just the implementation of the capital gains tax – but it’s bedding-in for three years. That would make it much harder to repeal.

Especially if all the fear-mongering, gloomy predictions failed to materialise and the world (or at least the bit at the bottom where New Zealand sat) failed to end in Mayan Calendar 2012-style. Like GST, National would have to ‘bite the bullet’ and accept the new tax. They simply could not find any justification to repeal it without perpetuating their ‘other’ reputation as being a party of, and for, “rich pricks”.

If Labour, the Greens, and NZ First hold their nerve and don’t blink in the face of right-wing hysteria and bluster, the political gain from implementing CGT could be greater than they anticipate.

In fact, everything to gain, and National to lose.

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Postscript

Response to National MP, Scott Simpson, engaging in fear-mongering over CGT:

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References

Twitter: Simon Bridges – no ifs no buts no caveats – 6 March 2019

Otago Daily Times: Key ruled out GST increase in 2008

NZ Herald: GST rise – The hole in your pocket

Interest.co.nz: Labour releases document setting out tax plan, says no Working Group taxes would come into effect until after 2020 election

Mediaworks/Newshub: National plunges to worst result in over a decade – Newshub poll

NZ Herald: National will reverse Govt’s offshore oil exploration ban if in power in 2020 – Bridges

Radio NZ: Peters’ legal action against National party continuing – lawyer

Beehive: Bright-line test targets gains on property sales

Interest.co.nz: The Bill that will see the bright line test extended from two-years to five has passed its third reading and now awaits the Royal Assent to become law

Mediaworks/Newshub: NZ prefers Judith Collins to Simon Bridges as Prime Minister – Newshub poll

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – Scott Simpson – capital gains tax

Other Blogs

The Standard: Why New Zealand needs a capital gains tax

Previous related blogposts

A Capital Gains Tax?  (14 July 2011)

ACT intending a “serious assault”?  (17 July 2011)

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax (31 May 2014)

A Claytons Capital Gains Tax? (13 September 2014)

Simon Bridges – out of touch with Kiwi Battlers (2 March 2019)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 March 2019.

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Simon Bridges – out of touch with Kiwi Battlers

2 March 2019 2 comments

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As property investors/speculators; assorted financiers; and their  political-wing, the National Party,  ramp up their opposition to a capital gains tax to a stridency approaching hysteria, current party leader, Simon Bridges, has used the mainstream media to push his highly propagandised (and highly emotive and misleading) messages;

“What the Kiwi way of life is is a recognition that New Zealanders aspire, they understand that people who work hard, who save, who invest, who take risks deserve the fruits of their labour and there is nothing fair about a capital gains tax that fundamentally gets in the way of that.”

He makes it sound as if property investment in New Zealand is akin to carving out and building a railway through the Himalayas.

On social media, Mr Bridges has used blitzed Twitter and Facebook with isolated examples of supposedly “contradictory cases” where CGT might or might not apply and has even taken to mis-representing aspects of how such a tax might apply (though he was quickly called out by other social media users).

Anyone would think that the Four Harleyriders Of The Apocalypse are bearing down upon us.

But Bridges miscalculated badly when one particular message posted on Twitter caught the eye of several users;

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New Zealanders aspire & want to get ahead for themselves & their families. How is it right that an $8m home in Auckland won’t face a CGT but a couple scrimping and saving for a bach or crib for their family will get slammed with the top tax rate? That’s not the Kiwi way.

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The kiwi way“?!

Homeless people living in garages and vans; families crammed into over-crowded houses; and even the home-seeking kids of the middle-class who cannot afford their own first homes would hardly be “The Kiwi Way“.

They would hardly be sympathetic to property owners lamenting having to “scrimp and save for a bach or crib“. Not many tears would be shed over “a bach or crib“.

Especially when many, if not most, if these “baches” and “cribs” are now substantial constructions and no longer the rustic cottages we once knew as kids.

As several Twitter-users pointed out;

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“Because a primary home is a necessity; a beach house is a luxuary.”

Babes if you don’t understand how CGT works maybe don’t get into it. And your mate’s kids might be “scrimping and saving” for a Bach but most of nz are just struggling to get a house deposit together thanks to the mess which is the property market xox

If you are scrimping perhaps a holiday home should not be a priority?

I don’t know anyone scrimping and saving for a batch. Just to get by each week yes. You are so out of touch bro.”

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There were other criticisms made, with many pointing out to Mr Bridges that a capital gains tax would apply only to any profit made at the end of selling a bach/crib – not saving for it;

“It’s not profit unless you realise it by selling the asset, you mean”

But it speaks loudly that Mr Bridges is openly appealing to the propertied middle class – those who already hold assets.

He does not appear to be even remotely concerned at the homeless nor frustrated young home-seekers who have been forced out of the property market, and destined to forever rent. National could not even admit that a home ownership problem existed.

To do so would have been a tacit admission of failure.

The term “Generation Renters” exists for good reason, as economist Shamubeel Eaqub explained in 2015 (when National was strenuously  rejecting any suggestion of a housing crisis);

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Economist Shamubeel Eaqub calls the Auckland housing story “madness” – and his upcoming book Generation Rent captures the rising sense of hopelessness among young New Zealanders locked out of the home ownership dream.

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The number of households who own or part own their home has decreased by 75,000 since 2007, despite the total number of households increasing by 155,000 in the same period. The number of households renting has increased by 117,000 during that time.

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The facts, however, speak more clearly and truthfully than any rhetoric from the current leader of the National Party, desperate to shore up his waning support and struggling to remain relevent.  If Mr Bridges loses the CGT debate it will be another nail in his political coffin.

The data, however, is hard to dismiss:

In 1991 Home ownership had reached a peak of 73.8%.

By 2013, home ownership had fallen to 64.8%.

Last year’s census results are not yet available according to Statistics NZ, but they are hardly likely to show any improvement.

The numbers show the dire state of our plummetting home ownership rates. If Mr Bridges was truly concerned for the “ordinary Kiwi battler”, he would be focused on those locked out of owning their own home instead of those already owning property and ‘aspiring’ to buy holiday homes on top of their bricks-and-mortar assets.

Instead, Mr Bridges’ comments about “a couple scrimping and saving for a bach or crib” indicates how utterly divorced he and his National Party fellow MPs are from mainstream, non-propertied New Zealand. The fact that most of them own investment properties should not be lost on us. They epitomise privilege.

National was certainly not reluctant to raise GST, prescription charges, family court fees, and a whole raft of other charges in 2010. Where was Mr Bridges then, championing those who “scrimp and save”, only to be hit by increased GST, medicine costs, and government charges?!

Mr Bridges and his privileged colleagues appear clearly wedded to protecting the interests of those for whom property investments has created mostly tax-free wealth. If ever there was a party for entrenched privilege, it is National.

It is also clear that those wanting to “get onto the first rung of the property ladder” need look elsewhere than the National Party. “Aspirational” for  the homeless and first home-owners means something completely different to National.

When a party leader unashamedly declares that he backs existing owners of property; wanting more property; without paying their fair share of tax on unearned gain on property – then those without property should look elsewhere.

The real question is not whether Mr Bridges and National are on the side of the property-owners or home-seekers. That question has well and truly been answered by Mr Bridges’ revealing ‘tweet’ above.

No, the real question now is, which side does NZ First want to be on?

What will be Winston Peters’ legacy? Aspirational home seekers or paper-wealthy property owners looking to increase their assets?

I know which one I’d want to be remembered for.

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Note: This blog author is currently away from his main computer, so reference-links may not be as comprehensive as they normally are.

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References

Radio NZ: Capital gains proposal – ‘What we’ve got here is a tax on a tax’ – Simon Bridges

Twitter: Simon Bridges – oriental bay, ohariu, gorse – 25.2.2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – auckland home, auckland home office, exempt – 25.2.2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – couples, scrimping, saving, baches, CGT – 22.2.2019

Radio NZ: Housing ‘challenge’ still not a ‘crisis’

Fairfax/Stuff media: House price rises creating a generation of renters

Statistics NZ: Owner-Occupied Households

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlight

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: ’The laughable myth of the ‘Kiwi way of life’

The Standard: Spare a thought for our poor impoverished landlords

Previous related blogposts

A Capital Gains Tax?  (14 July 2011)

ACT intending a “serious assault”?  (17 July 2011)

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax (31 May 2014)

A Claytons Capital Gains Tax? (13 September 2014)

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Capital gains tax labour NZ Politics Daily - Bryce Edwards Otago University liberation blog - www.liberation.org.nz

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 February 2019.

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Standard & Poor’s just sabotaged Simon Bridges’ tax bribe announcement

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Poor Simon Bridges.

Since becoming Leader of the National Party, he has been dogged by embarrassing leaks (which appear to be ongoing even after Jami-Lee Ross’s departure from caucus); a once-trusted MP turned feral; another MP accused of bullying her staff; allegations of a culture of sexual harrassment in the Party; travel expenses that make him look profligate with taxpayers’ money; assorted bed-hopping; and a potential contender for his job breathing down his neck as his poll ratings continue to languish in single figures.

Never mind “it’s not easy being green” – being Blue right now is positively diabolical for Simon Bridges. The only thing missing is a National MP who is revealed to be an agent for a foreign power. Oh…

With indications that the Tax Working Group will shortly be making it’s final report back to the Coalition, and with expectations that it will recommend a Capital Gains Tax on property (excluding the family home), National has launched a multi-media campaign on taxation. Twitter, Facebook, as well as the msm have all carried National’s announcement to cut taxes (dressed up as “tax adjustments” to deflect criticism that National is once again planning to cut taxes for the rich).

It was revealing that Bridges decided to give his speech out-lining plans for  tax-cuts-dressed-up-as-tax-adjustments at the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce, in Christchurch. He would not dare make such a speech at the Child Poverty Action Group, foodbank, or community hall in a predominantly state housing area.

He made his pitch at the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce because those are the people who would – yet again – benefit from tax-cuts-dressed-up-as-tax-adjustments.

As well as offering the bog-standard tax-cut bribe, Simon Bridges also alluded to National’s so-called reputation for being a “prudent fiscal manager“;

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To which one couldn’t help but reply;

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But worse was to come for Simon Bridges.

A day later, international credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, up-graded New Zealand’s sovereign outlook from “stable” to “positive”. The  S&P report noted;

“Accommodative monetary policy, population growth, higher wage outcomes and higher government spending” and a decline in the New Zealand dollar, was continuing to support growth, it said.

“We don’t believe trade tensions between New Zealand’s major trading partners will currently have a substantial impact on the country’s economy and external performance, particularly given that key exports are imported for domestic consumption in China, rather than for re-exporting.”

It was capitalism’s vote-of-confidence in a left-wing government with overtly left-wing policies.

Which stands in stark contrast with the credit-rating down-grade New Zealand experienced in 2010 and 2011 – under the right-wing, Key-led National government;

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New Zealand went from “stable outlook” in 2009 to “negative” by November 2010.  By September 2011, we had dropped from AA Positive to just AA.

In fairness, a sound explanation could lie with the fallout from the 2008 Global Financial crisis and Great Recession that followed.

But no. National compounded the fall in tax revenue resulting from the Recession by cutting taxes in 2009 and 2010, which reduced the tax-take even further. That meant only one recourse for then Finance Minister, Bill English: borrowing. Massive amounts of borrowing..

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National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises, the party’s leader John Key says.

But Mr Key said the borrowing would be for new infrastructure projects rather than National’s quicker and larger tax cuts which would be “hermetically sealed” from the debt programme.

In opening remarks to the party’s annual conference in Wellington today Mr Key said National would incorporate Labour’s October 1 tax cuts, bring forward a second round to April 2009 – a year earlier than Labour – and a third round to April 2010.

Labour’s planned third round would not take effect until April 2011.

National is yet to explain how it will pay for the promised larger cuts.

But deputy leader and finance spokesman Bill English told delegates National was prepared to borrow more to fund infrastructure.

He said New Zealand had one of the lowest levels of debt of any developed country and “additional borrowing” for infrastructure would boost economic growth.

Even after Treasury released a report predicting a $30 billion deficit, then National leader (and subsequent PM), John Key, was not prepared to abandon his party’s planned taxcut bribe;

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget.

The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits.

Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.

Mr Key said National anticipated that the figures would be bad but thought “even Michael Cullen could do better than this”.

But he said his party would proceed as planned with the announcement of their tax strategy on Wednesday and he said there would be tax cuts.

By mid-2009, National realised that spending cuts to social services would have to be made. The public were being “softened up” to the inevitable.

Despite drastic spending cuts to social services; ceasing payment to the NZ Superannuation Fund, and redundancies in the state sector – it was all futile and  insufficient to meet the duel cost of reduced revenue due to recessionary pressures and the – now obviously unaffordable – taxcuts.

By May 2011, the National government was borrowing $380 million per week. Debt stood at $71.6 billion.

National’s crazy borrowing had been exacerbated by tax cuts that we could ill-afford. This is why Standard and Poor’s took alarm at National’s tax-cuts and borrowings, and downgraded our credit outlook to “negative”. It could be said that New Zealand was ‘Going Greek’ in the South Pacific.

So when current National Party leader, Simon Bridges boasted that New Zealanders “trusted National with managing the economy. You know we’ll be careful with your money” – people with long memories reacted with justified derision.

Make no mistake – and let me spell it out with crystal clarity:  there is no such thing as a ‘free school lunch’ or tax-cuts without consequences. School lunches (which are a social necessity) are usually paid for by taxpayers.  Tax-cuts will be paid by all of us, if sufficient numbers of voters buy into Bridges’ tax-cut bribe.

Expect National to cut spending on vital social areas; sell remaining state assets (by stealth, if they can get away with it); stop contributions (again) to the NZ Super Fund; and increase user-pays government charges. Bridges may even go so far as to raise gst again.

As well as promising de facto tax cuts, Bridges has also made other, expensive promises;

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It is difficult to understand how National will pay for it’s promises with all those taxes abolished. And what does Bridges mean “in our first term“? What, exactly, are they planning for a second term?

We have heard this terrible “tax cuts” song before. It will not sound better the second time around.

I hope New Zealanders have better sense than to fall for this fiscal sleight-of-hand again.

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References

Radio NZ: Bridges – National caucus didn’t leak travel expenses

Otago Daily Times: More National Party leaks

Fairfax/Stuff: Another alleged recording of phone call between Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross is leaked

Radio NZ: Maggie Barry bullying claims – Ex-staffer speaks out

Mediaworks/Newshub: National to conduct independent review into party culture

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges defends $113k expenses bill

Noted: Parliament’s star-crossed lovers who crossed each other

Otago Daily Times: Could Collins become National’s new leader?

NBR: Bridges clocks lowest Newshub-Reid poll rating of any National leader for a decade

Newsroom: Newsroom Investigation – National MP trained by Chinese spies

Mediaworks/Newshub: Capital gains tax set to be biggest political scrap of the year

Twitter: Simon Bridges

Facebook: Simon Bridges

Fairfax/Stuff: National promises three-yearly income tax cuts in first major speech of 2019

Fairfax/Stuff: Improved S&P outlook ‘underlines’ position of NZ economy, says Grant Robertson

The Treasury: Credit Ratings

NZ Herald: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

NZ Herald: Key – $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts

Fairfax/Stuff: Labour Budget pledges face axe

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax/Stuff: Government debt rises to $71.6 billion

Twitter: Simon Bridges – 30 January 2018 2.44pm – abolish taxes

Additional

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

Other Blogs

Greater Auckland: What happens if you get rid of the Regional Fuel Tax?

The Daily Blog: Yawn – Simon Bridges promises less than a weekly Big Mac Combo in tax cuts

The Standard: Show us the money Simon

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Tax cuts & school children

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

Plunket and the slow strangulation of community organisations

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

An earthquake separates John Key and ‘The Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 19: Tax Cuts Galore! Money Scramble!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2019.

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A possible solution to Party campaign funding rorts

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1. Party donations

As the law currently stands with regards to party donations, there are set limits to election spending. According to the Electoral Commission;

Expenditure limit

A registered party’s election expenses during the regulated period for the 2017 general election (23 June to 22 September) must not exceed $1,115,000 (including GST) plus $26,200 (including GST) per electorate contested by the party.

If a registered party does not contest the party vote, its total election expenses cannot exceed $26,200 (including GST) for each electorate candidate nominated by the party.

The candidate election expenses regime does not apply to people who are list candidates only. Any spending by those candidates promoting the party is an election expense of the party and must be authorised by the party secretary.

Party limits are separate from the expense limits applying to electorate candidates.

The issue of donations is more complicated;

Party donations and contributions to donations of more than $15,000 (including GST) are required to be declared in the party’s annual return of donations. A series of donations, or contributions of more than $1,500 to donations, made by one person that adds up to more than $15,000 must also be declared.

Fundraising activities are also covered;

Raffles, stalls and other fundraisers

A supporter providing a party with free cakes or other goods or services to use for fundraising is not making a donation for the purposes of the Electoral Act if the value of the items given is worth $1,500 or less. Purchasers of raffle tickets and cakes from a cake stall are not ‘donors’ as they are not making a donation to anyone. The total proceeds of a raffle or a cake stall for a party’s campaign are treated as a donation. The person who runs the raffle or cake stall will normally be the donor.

If the total funds from the raffle or cake stall are over $15,000, then the party’s donation return must include the name and address of the person who ran the fundraiser and subsequently donated the proceeds, along with the total amount given and the date that the donation was received by the party secretary.

It would be a fairly profitable “chook raffle” or “cake stall” to raise $15,000. That’s a very expensive chook. And a truck-load lot of cupcakes.

2. Dodgy dealings

Fundraisers such as National’s $5,000/plate dinner event at ‘Antoine’s’ restaurant in Parnell, Auckland in 2014 raised eyebrows, forcing then-PM John Key to defend  his Party’s activities;

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Fundraising events using fronts such as ‘Antoine’s‘ restaurant are nominally legitimate – if dubious – methods to avoid identifying donors to political parties. Donation returns for National in 2010 and 2011 showed tens of thousands of dollars being funnelled through the restaurant;

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There is currently little protection from circumventing disclosure requirements by using ‘fronts’ such as Trusts and private companies.

Only direct donations are monitored.

Only where non-disclosure or false information is provided is the law is unequivocal regarding a donation;

If the party secretary knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, that the donor has failed to supply information about contributions, the whole donation must be returned to the donor.

And,

Parties are not allowed to retain anonymous donations exceeding $1,500. An anonymous donation is a donation made in such a way that the party secretary who receives the donation does not know the identity of the donor and could not, in the circumstances, reasonably be expected to know the identity of the donor. [See section 207 of the Electoral Act]

If you receive an anonymous donation greater than $1,500 you may retain $1,500 of that donation. The balance of the donation must, within 20 working days of receipt, be paid to the Electoral Commission for payment into a Crown bank account.

NZ First was forced to return a portion of one such donation in 2008 when it received a donation of $3,690.02 from an unknown donor who was obviously providing bogus details;

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The possibility of a deliberate set-up by a political opponent should make all Party Secretaries highly cautious when dealing with donations where the donor’s details are dubious. The Donghua Liu Affair showed vividly what can happen when a Party is accused (falsely in this case) of rorting the Electoral Act.

But where a donor providing larger donation is known to Party leaders it becomes easier to circumvent legal requirements for disclosure. Recent allegations from Jami Lee Ross that businessman Zhang Yikun donated $100,000 to National, via the Botany Electorate of that Party, and was broken up at some point into smaller portions below the $15,000 threshold for mandatory declaration, are being investigated by the Police.

The apparent ease by which the Electoral Act’s requirements for disclosure can be flouted is disturbing. It opens up dangerous vulnerabilities for corruption; undue influence by big business and the wealthy, and candidates-for-money.

The US shows us where Big Money buying influence leads us – and it is not a good place.

Problems surrounding rorting the party donation system need to be urgently addressed. It is harder to cut out rot once it has set in; corruption is hard to dislodge once it has taken hold.

3. Solutions

Suggestions for tightening up legislation has ranged from lowering the limit for mandatory disclosure to $1,000 to full public funding of political parties by taxpayers.

As Green Party co-leader, Marama Davidson warned;

“The fact of the matter is, as long as political parties are accepting donations from powerful vested interests, there is a constant risk of corruption.

It is clear that those vested interests have a tangible influence on the decision making of political parties. This is a threat to democracy and should change.

Political parties are an important component of our democracy and if increasing state money for electioneering removes the influence of powerful vested interests, then it should be considered.”

Writing for Interest.co.nz, David Hargreaves has gone further, calling for a total end of private donations to political parties;

But there’s no question also that these ‘donations’ can be used by those making the donation to seek influence. If a donation ‘buys’ the people giving the money access to the political party concerned (such as dinner at someone’s house) then the opportunity is there to carry influence.

So, you get the situation in which the person making the donation wants to be able to influence proceedings – without the public at large knowing that – while the party receiving the donations doesn’t want the public at large to know that they are getting money from places that might suggest they are being subjected to particular influence.

There has to be obvious concern if particular vested interests are pumping money into political parties in order to seek influence. Now that could be say religious groups. It could be people from other countries – and what if other countries are seeking to assert their so-called ‘soft power’?

This all has to be taken very seriously.

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It’s the lack of transparency about the current system that’s the real problem.

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I increasingly think ‘donations’ should be banned. I think it should be illegal for anybody to contribute money to a political party.

Activist group, Action Stations has called for three significant reforms for Party donations:

  • All donations over $1500 should be declared and the donors named.
  • Loopholes that allow fundraising through trusts, dinners, and charity auctions to remain anonymous should be closed.
  • Donations should be publicly disclosed in real time, to allow greater and immediate scrutiny.

4. There is a further option to tighten up controls on donation.

This blogger proposes that all donations above a certain amount (whether $1,000 or $1,500) be made directly to the Electoral Commission, using internet banking. For those not au fait with internet banking, donations could be available by other means – NZPost, etc – but still made directly to the Electoral Commission.

Each donation would be made to a  nominated Party or Electorate Candidate using drop-down menus on the Commission’s website.

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Donor’s details can be matched with their bank account details. Once verified, the donated amount is lodged in a holding-account and the donor’s name  made public in real-time.

Donations through dinners, auctions, etc, can be lodged directly during the event, into the Commission’s account, disclosing the details of the donor at the dinner or auction. (Again, if the donor’s details do not match their bank account details, the donation is automatically rejected.)

As per Action Station’s demand, donations through Trusts would be banned. Any method that does not provide transparency would not be permitted through the Commission.

Parties would be banned from handling funds greater than $1,000 or $1,500.

This still allows for low-level fund-raising such as sausage sizzles, cake stalls, and chook raffles. (Cake stalls raising $15,000 would be scrutinised to see what the hell those ‘cakes’ were made from.)

Once verified, funds would be disbursed to relevent Parties to meet campaign expenses.

Any funds over the Party and Electorate cap (see above) would be held in escrow for the following election.

Interest gained from holding these funds in the Electoral Commission’s account would self-fund the system.

The obvious primary benefit would be that it makes it harder – though not impossible* – for political Parties to rort the system.

(* A wealthy donor could still, theoretically give smaller amounts to friends and family, who then make said donations to a Party or Electorate Candidate via the Commission’s account. A bank would have to implement protocols to detect suspicious payments. Any police investigation; subsequent prosecution and conviction, would have to have financial penalties so severe that anyone contemplating such a scheme would think very carefully before proceeding.)

The above proposal does not cover every aspect of donations (such as goods and services) to political parties – but it’s a start.

If Jami Lee Ross has achieved anything, it is casting the full glare of public scrutiny over Party donations. His methods may have been unorthodox – but he’s got our attention. We can no longer feign lack of awareness of this dark shadow over our democracy.

The rest is up to us, as a nation, what we do now.

Otherwise, we end up with more-of-the-same;

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For sale: one parliament.

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References

Electoral Commission: Part 3 – Election expenses, donations and loans

Mediaworks: Key not talking about fundraising dinner

Electoral Commission: National_Party_donations_2010.pdf

Electoral Commission:  New Zealand National Party donations 2011.pdf

Electoral Commission: NZ First Party Donations Returns 2008

Fairfax media: Show us the money: Donors bankrolling Greens lead way in fronting up to public

Interest.co.nz: We should urgently consider changes to the way our political parties are funded

Action Stations: Fix Political Donations

Scoop media: Stop powerful vested interests and preserve democracy

NZ Herald: Bryce Edwards – Should taxpayers fund political parties?

Fairfax media: Secret donors – Buck stops here

Additional

The Good Society: Max Rashbrooke – Donations to political parties 2011-16

Electoral Commission: Party Donations by Year

Fairfax media: Over half of major political cash comes from donations of over $15,000

NBR:  Key under fire for Antoine’s donations

Other blogs

The Standard: Ross saga quiescent, but donations scandal needs addressing

Previous related blogposts

National’s fund-raising at Antoine’s – was GST paid?

Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

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With acknowledgement to Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 October 2018.

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Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

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Jami Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges

Whatever drama is taking place before our eyes, one certainty should be borne in mind: this is not a story of Good vs Evil; Light vs Darkness; a lone battler for justice vs corruption in our highest political places. What we are seeing are two faces of the same coin at war with each other.

One is motivated by revenge – for ambitions thwarted.

The other is motivated by desperation – for pure political survival.

Jami Lee Ross has been associated with a small cabal of far-right political activists; Simon Lusk, David Farrar, Judith Collins, Aaron Bhatnagar, and Cameron Slater. (There are others, but they are bit-players.) More on this shortly.

Ross was better known for his Employment Relations Amendment Bill in 2013 which  would allow businesses to break strikes by employing temporary scab labour during industrial action. Ross’s undisguised hatred for unions was apparent when, in June 2012, he released a vicious attack public attack on the Maritime Union (involved in a bitter dispute at the time with the Ports of Auckland management);

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland.

For commercial users, it is a simple matter of certainty and continuity Union action, and the threat of further strikes, have put a serious dent in the Ports of Auckland’s ability to provide their bread and butter services Customers are now voting with their feet. The value of Ports of Auckland and the value of the investment that every Aucklander has in the company will continue to suffer if resolution to this matter is not swift.

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

As the fight for Auckland’s waterfront reaches the tipping point, for ratepayers and workers alike this present stand off must come to an end. The city’s $600 million port investment and worker’s jobs are now on the line. Also on the line is the country’s acceptance of the role of trade unions. It can not be tolerable or acceptable for a union to demonstrate continued disregard for the economic consequences of their actions.

For Simon Bridges, he is better known for enabling legislation criminalising/banning protest action against deep-sea oil exploration;

The government is set to crack down on environmental protesters with fines of up to $100,000 or a year in jail for those who target offshore oil and gas operations.

Energy minister Simon Bridges today announced “stronger measures to protect offshore petroleum and minerals activity from unlawful interference”.

Individuals who intentionally damage or interfere with mining structures, like rigs, or vessels face a 12-month prison sentence or a $50,000 fine. Organisations face a penalty of up to $100,000.

Activists who break a 500-metre “no-go” zone around structures would be liable for a $10,000 fine.

A year later, and National continued to curtail public rights to protest oil and gas exploration in our waters;

The public will lose their right to formally oppose deep-sea oil and gas exploration from tomorrow.

A law change will see applications by oil giants go through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They will now be “non-notified” preventing members of the public lodging a formal protest.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said  the new classification was the “pragmatic option” for exploratory drilling. She believed it provided regulation “proportionate to its effects”.

Neither men fit any notion of being “Champions” for public scrutiny and openess when it comes to political matters. Both are on record willing and able to curtail workers’ rights for collective bargaining, and public rights to oppose environmentally damaging fossil fuel exploration.

Furthermore, if we disregard the (now admitted) sexual shenanigans and the controversial (though not illegal) tape recordings by Jamie Lee Ross, there remain several questions  that deserve far greater scrutiny.

The $100,000 Donation (the real one, not the fabricated Donghua Liu/NZHerald version)

Was a donation of $100,000 made by Chinese businessman, Zhang Yikun?

According to Southland mayor, Gary Tong, who was on a recent business trip to China  with the businessman, Mr Zhang denies ever making such a donation.

Assuming that a donation was made, where was the $100K deposited? In his now infamous recorded conversation with National Parliamentary leader, Simon Bridges,  Jami-Lee Ross pointed to the amount being  deposited into a “Botany electorate account”.

“What would you like done with it? It’s currently sitting in a Botany electorate account.”

In a follow-up text message to National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, Ross said;

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In what form was it deposited – one lump sum, or in smaller amounts?

According to Ross – in the same text message – they were “all under $15,000”.

The following conversation between Bridges and Ross is suggestive that there is a question how the donation should be disclosed to Peter Goodfellow;

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Bridges: The money’s fine sitting there in the Botany account. I don’t know what your arrangement is with Goodfellow or not, that’s all. I need to talk to him. I’m actually seeing him tonight, I wonder if I should.

Ross: I don’t think we can.

Bridges: I should wait and get the right words.

Ross: I don’t think we can raise tens of thousands and completely keep him out of the loop.

Bridges: No, no we can’t.

Ross: Maybe if you’re just honest with him about it.

Bridges: I think that’s right. I’ll raise it with him but we should probably just think it through. I mean, it can be in the Party but I do just want to make sure we’ve got that money to do those things. Don’t you think?

Ross: Donations can only be raised two ways: Party donation or candidate donation.

Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine. But if it was a candidate donation that’d be different. So making them party donations is the way to do it. Legally though if they’re party donations they’re kind of under Greg’s name as the party secretary.

Bridges: We need to tell them, I get that. I get that. I’m going to tell him…I think he’ll accept it I just need to explain to him what it is I want it for. Unless I get him to…leave it with me. I might talk to McClay as well; see what he’s got up his sleeve. Because Peter is going to be with me at this meeting in Wellington, is all. If I then brought him after that…good work though man, that’s a lot of money.

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In the last highlighted extract Ross practically spells out to Bridges that the donation was made by “multiple people and multiple people mak[ing] donations“.

Tellingly, Bridges accepts Ross’s statement without question. He reconfirmed his acceptance of multiple donations/donors on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 24 October. When asked by Suzie Ferguson if he had “found the $100,000 donation yet“, Bridges replied;

We’ve established that the position is , it was some seven donations from eight people. I didn’t know that at the time – [inaudible].”

Ms Ferguson pressed the point by asking if it added up to $100,000. Bridges replied;

“Look, I think it’s something very much like that, yeah.”

Bridges’ claim he was unaware of multiple donors is at variance with what Jami Lee Ross told him during their recorded conversation;

“Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine.”

National Party President, Peter Goodfellow confirmed unequivocally that no  “$100K” donation had been received by the National Party office;

“There was no such donation. The Botany Electorate of the National Party received eight donations, and Mr Ross declared eight donations to us.”

It will be a  simple matter for Police to conduct a forensic accounting investigation. Once deposited into the Botany-National account the electronic money trail will be relatively straight forward to follow.

If – as Peter Goodfellow claims, and Ross outlined in his recorded conversation with Bridges – it was deposited in smaller amounts, again it would be straight forward to trace the source(s) and donor (s).

If dodgy dealings were involved and the $100k was split into “eight donations“, an electronic trail will reveal the donor(s). The Police probably have those details by now.

Furthermore, if seven of those “eight donations” were individuals who happened to receive an identical sum of, say, $12,500 from Zhang Yikun; and those seven individuals then donated precisely the same sum of, say, $12,500 to Botany National – then a prima facie case exists that an attempt was made to circumvent the Electoral Act 1993.

If it became known that Mr Zhang received that $100,000 from a foreign government – or state-sanctioned entity controlled by a foreign government – that would be explosive! It would cripple the National Party for years to come.

The bottom line is that a donation was made. The question is: how was it made? Both claims of a single $100k donation  and “eight donations” cannot be reconciled.

Someone is lying. By now the Police probably have a good idea who.

Perhaps not quite so “insignificant?

All of which makes Bryce Edwards recent remarks questionable;

“The extraordinary National Party scandal currently unfolding before our eyes is undoubtedly high drama. It has it all – leaks, anonymous texts, threats, secret recordings and explosive allegations… At its heart, however, the scandal is empty. It contains nothing of significance for democracy and society.”

As a series of stories on Radio NZ’s Morning Report began to explore – whilst the prurient side-show of sex, tapes, and personality-plays dominated media headlines last week (15- 19 October) – the real issues of campaign donations is yet to play out.

Ross’s allegations may  be the critically-needed spark that reviews our party donation rules by casting the glare of public scrutiny over ways  the Electoral Act has been, and is, being rorted.

The Four Anonymous Women, What The Nats Knew, And When They Knew It

The  issue raised by the story of four women allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross was raised by independent media, Newsroom, on 18 October – three days  after National party leader Simon Bridges held his press conference identifying  Ross as the leaker of his travel expenses.

The story was written by Newsroom   veteran journalist Melanie Reid and Cass Mason.

Initially, all four complainants were anonymous. Which made any similarities to the revelations by three women against US Supreme Court (then-)nominee, Brett Kavanaugh questionable. Those three women – Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick – came forward and made their identities public.

One, Christine Blasey Ford, appeared before a Senate Judiciary committee where she was subjected to intense scrutiny and questioning. Her demeanour and testimony was composed, compelling, and credible.

One day prior to the Newsroom story being published, National’s deputy leader, Paula Bennett accused Ross of unspecific “inappropriate behaviour”;

“He had gone out there and said we had been accusing him of sexual harassment of women and that’s not true, and we haven’t done that and he likened himself to Brett Kavanaugh, which was quite extraordinary in his hour-long stand-up, so I continued to be asked about sexual harassment and we hadn’t put sexual harassment to him, but we had put inappropriate behaviour to him.”

It was also in this story that Ross’s allegation that Simon Bridges had met with businessman Zhang Yikun was first confirmed by the National Party. Until this point, Bridges had been evasive in answering media questions on any donations.

All four women are apparently connected to the National Party. One has come forward – former National Party Candidate for Manurewa, Katrina Bungard;

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Ms Bungard’s conflict with Ross began in 2016/17. Ross was campaigning vigorously to have his wife, Lucy Schwaner, appointed to the Howick Local Board.

This was National Party intra-politics with Ross allegedly threatening Ms Bungard for not supporting his wife onto the Howick Local Board. At one point, Ross had served a trespass order against Ms Bungard, to prevent her attending a National Party event. Far-right political operative, Simon Lusk, became involved on behalf of Jami Lee Ross.

Ms Bungard complained to the National Party hierarchy. Apparently, Ms Bungard was satisfied at the time with the National Party’s action addressing Ross’s alleged bullying;

“They helped me at a really stressful time and I am thankful for their assistance.”

Ms Bungard has stated that if  Ross resigned , she would run for his Botany seat in the by-election.

As our American cuzzies put it, Ms Bungard “has skin in the game” – she would stand to benefit materially and politically if Jami Lee Ross resigned.

The other three alleged complainants remain anonymous and their stories cannot be scrutinised or verified.

Other Complainants come forward

David Collings, chair of the Howick Local Board, alleges that he also had a confrontation with Ross. On TV3’s The Nation, Mr Collings painted a grim picture of Jami Lee Ross;

“It got very nasty. He actually threatened, attacked my members, for support. For example, my deputy chair [Katrina Bungard] has aspirations – she’d be a great National MP… he’s used that over her to try and get his way. Threatening her – ‘you’re political career will go nowhere’ – other members of the board, even a sworn police officer, veiled threats about your employment.

[…]

Oh, it got very nasty.

[…]

I wasn’t even contacted. But obviously, I knew exactly what was going on, even was privy to… I think it was on the actual day of our meeting when we elected the chair. He called through – and I’ve said it before – in, like, a Darth Vader voice, ‘I can’t believe you’re willing to give up your political career.’ Sorry, I can do a better Darth Vader voice than that, but that’s what it was like. But like Freddy Krueger or something.

[…] I’m not sure if he said it was him, because I was actually going to try and get my phone to try and record it, so I missed the end of it. But it was on – what do you call it – a cell phone that was untraceable, sort of thing – no number.

We complained to the National Party, and Greg Hamilton – who was the manager at the time – was quite helpful. He said, ‘What you’re telling us is not right. An MP shouldn’t’ be getting involved in something in local government, particularly when his wife is involved.’ Greg was quite helpful, but it didn’t stop.”

Mr Collings went on to describe Ross as;

“Look, this guy – we’ve got a guy in our area that makes Todd Barclay look like an angel.”

National Party member, Katrina Bungard is Deputy Chair of the Howick Local Board.

TV3’s The Nation co-host, Simon Shepherd introduced  David Collings as the chairperson of the Howick Local Board.

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What wasn’t disclosed is that Mr Collings was elected on the right-wing ‘Vision and Voice‘ ticket; a local  grouping of  members that appears to be National Party-aligned;

David Collings

Bob Wichman

Garry Boles

John Spiller (formerly member of National-aligned )

Peter Young

Katrina Bungard (former National candidate)

Adele White (supported by Jami Lee Ross in a petition, 2013)

Lucy Schwaner (Jami Lee Ross’s wife).

As described in a Newsroom story;

Many on the Howick board are National Party types but the party doesn’t stand candidates directly.

It would appear that David Collings also “has skin in the game”.

Obvious questions should be raised as to why the complainants have only now made their stories about alleged harassment public. As Tim Macindoe, MP for Hamilton West, pointed out to Newshub;

“You’re jumping to a whole lot of assumptions about behaviour you don’t know about and I don’t know about.

There are allegations that have been made, but I think given the situation we’re now in, the best thing is for us all to just step back, allow authorities do the jobs they’re needing to do, and I don’t think it’s helpful for us to be involved in public speculation.

As I say we have some allegations that have been made, they may be wildly at variance from the facts.”

The conclusion that this is a “pile on” by National Party members and supporters cannot be easily ignored. Alleged bad behaviour is apparently tolerated by National as long as everyone ‘tows the party line’ and remains loyal.

National Party action over past harassment charges

Justifying Ross’s expulsion, an un-named National Party spokesperson said;

“What Jami-Lee has done and continues to do is unacceptable and the more that comes to light the more we know we made the right decision to expel him from the Caucus.

We are supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour.”

However, many of the allegations made against Ross appear to have been recent-historical and have only now surfaced.

Whilst National was “supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour” one complainant was encouraged (?) to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Signed two years ago,  National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, denies it was a NDA;

“We haven’t used any NDAs. That matter was a private matter and they wanted confidentiality, so they both agreed that it would be kept confidential.

That’s the only instance that I’m aware of in my time as president that we’ve had an issue like that and it’s certainly the only time that the parties have requested confidentiality.

It was a matter that was raised by a couple of people and was dealt with – and actually to the satisfaction of the parties.

We acted quickly and helped them to resolve the differences and move on.”

According to Peter Goodfellow, the document was not a NDA but rather a “gentlemen’s agreement”. Which is a quaintly odd euphemism, as one of the signatories was a woman.

Despite the agreement; despite the complaints made over his alleged behaviour, Ross’s career continued to rise within the National Party. He rose to become National’s Senior Whip.

Though the National hierarchy had been aware of complaints  about Ross’s alleged behaviour, at least one woman who complained was silenced through a non-disclosure agreement – and in the meantime Jami Lee Ross continued his rise through the National hierarchy. He was rewarded, whilst complainants were silenced.

His promotion makes a mockery of the sanctimonious utterances of both Simon Bridges and his deputy, Paula Bennett;

“I am in admiration of the courage of these women for what had happened. As soon as I was aware of inappropriate conduct, I acted immediately I knew nothing before the leak investigation about any of these sorts of things … within a day of knowing about them I confronted Jami-Lee Ross about this.” – Simon Bridges

“I think there are bound to be other women, at various degrees, he was grooming. I feel a sense that people deserve to feel safe and particularly from someone in power. I think those women are incredibly courageous and strong to have spoken out. I’m sure when you are dealing with that potentially narcissistic personality, then any kind of position of power would feed into that.” – Paula Bennett

Simon Bridges denies any knowledge of Ross’s alleged bad behaviour. This seems unlikely in a ‘pressure-cooker’ political environment where people talk to each other and gossip runs rampant.  Bridges’ claim of not knowing is simply not credible.

In Parliament, people talk. Especially staff. And often that chit-chat gets back to politician’s ears.

The culture of the National Party seems geared toward rewarding brutal politics and hiding away the victims of those who wield the power. This fact has been made abundantly clear to the public.

Sectioned into care?

On Sunday 21 October, the media reported that Ross had been taken into “mental health care“.

There were suggestions he had been “sectioned” – admitted under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act. This usually involves psychiatrist reports and a decision before a sitting judge. A Court Order is made for compulsory treatment. It takes time to be “sectioned” and is not an easy process;

For the first month, the patient must accept treatment. From the second month onwards, the patient is not required to accept treatment unless they give informed consent, or treatment is considered in the interests of the patient by an independent psychiatrist (not being the responsible clinician), or the patient needs emergency treatment and it is not possible to get their consent.

Two days later, on Tuesday 23 October, Ross was discharged from care.

Two days.

According to David Fisher at the NZ Herald, the “friend” assisting Ross after his “discharge was none other than – Cameron Slater;

It is believed Slater has been personally supporting Ross since the weekend and his assistance extended to helping the MP in his release from Middlemore Hospital’s mental health facilities yesterday.

In the two days that Ross was in “mental health care”, the media spotlight went from the beleaguered rogue MP facing numerous allegations of “bad behaviour”, harrassment, extra-marital affairs – to National Leader Simon Bridges.

Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on Tuesday 23 October focused on interviews and hard questions put to Bridges, the National Party, campaign donations,mental health, and workplace harassment. Anything but Jami Lee Ross;

And more the following day on ‘Morning Report‘;

All of a sudden, the blow-torch of media attention was off Ross and on Simon Bridges and the National party in most instances.

If Ross really was admitted into “mental health care” – it was a timely coincidence.

If not, it was a strategic master-stroke – whoever planned it would fit the role of a Bond villain with perfection.

Which leads us to…

The Dirty Politics Cabal

Conspiracy of cock-up?  Jamie Lee Ross’s recording  of conversation(s) with Simon Bridges was either a shrewd decision to cover his back-side as he fell from grace with his Leader – or something far more calculating and sinister.

Bridges claims  that he believes Ross have may been planning and executing his strategy for a considerable period of time;

“I think he has been recording me, and potentially many other members of Parliament, for a very long time.”

So obviously not a spur-of-the-moment, rash-impulse kind, of thing by Ross.

As the Ross/Bridges crisis unfolded since 15 October, several names began to show up – names which feature prominently in Nicky Hager’s expose, Dirty Politics:

Assuming – for a moment – that the most machiavellian planning has gone into destroying Simon Bridges as the leader of the National;

  1. Who would benefit?
  2. What would be the likely outcome for the Party?

In answer to question one, the likely successor to Bridges being deposed would be Judith Collins. Ms Collins featured recently in the TVNZ-Colmar Brunton polls, just marginally behind Simon Bridges;

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Jami Lee Ross’s full scale assault has inarguably destroyed his political career. He may even be unemployable in the private sector, as Kiwiblogger David Farrar, and former MP, Tau Henare, pointed out recently.

But his attacks on Simon Bridges has also undermined his leadership – perhaps beyond repair.

If National falls any further in polling; and Bridges’ popularity drops further; and Collins’ popularity  rises – the inevitable would happen. Bridges would be rolled and Judith Collins installed as the new leader.

In answer to question 2: National would lurch hard-right. New Zealand politics would suddenly become more partisan; more divisive – in short, more like Australia. The hard-right warriors Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, Aaron Bhatnagar, Jami Lee Ross, et al, would have their new leader and National would become the vehicle for their political agenda and aspirations.

Jamie Lee Ross would eventually be “rehabilitated” politically  and would be appointed to various SOE boards as Collins’ ‘head kicker’.

Far-fetched conspiracy la-la stuff? Perhaps… though even  David Fisher seemed compelled to write in the NZ Herald;

“It’s impossible to know exactly when Ross took a step down what he sees as a righteous – and what Bridges calls treacherous – path.  It’s also difficult to know where it ends. Ross’ actions have shown clear signs of strategy.”

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References

NBR: Ports behind strike-breaking bill – Ross

Scoop media: Jami Lee Ross – Union biting the hand that feeds

Newstalk ZB: Ross saga – Businessman denies making $100k donation

Fairfax media: Environmental protesters’ Govt crack down

Fairfax media: Law will hit deep-sea drilling protesters

Fairfax media: Jami-Lee Ross admits affair with MP, pledges to stay on in Parliament

NZ Herald: Full transcript – The Jami-Lee Ross tape of Simon Bridges

Mediaworks: As it happened – Jami-Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges saga reaches new heights

Mediaworks: Read Jami-Lee Ross’ texts to Greg Hamilton about $100,000 donation

Radio NZ: National’s hollow political scandal entertaining but insignificant

Radio NZ: Morning Report – National Party inquiry to ensure staff ‘feeling safe’ – Bridges (alt-link)

Legislation: Electoral Act 1993

Radio NZ: Morning Report for Tuesday 23 October 2018

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross: – Four women speak out

Radio NZ: Jami-Lee Ross identified as National Party leaker

New York Times: The Women Who Have Accused Brett Kavanaugh

NPR: Kavanaugh And Christine Blasey Ford Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Radio NZ: Bridges did talk to businessman at centre of donation claim – Bennett

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges continues to stonewall questions about donations and sexual harassment claims

Fairfax media: National party candidate allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross speaks out

NZ Herald: National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

Auckland Council: Contact Howick Local Board

Scoop media: C&R Howick Announce Local Board Team

Talking Southern Auckland: Honesty and Integrity Part Two

Newsroom: Nats have a long Jami-Lee agenda

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross’ behaviour allegations might not be accurate – National MP Tim Macindoe

Interest.co.nz: Jami-Lee Ross to remain in Parliament as an independent MP for Botany

Scoop media: TV3 The Nation – Chris Simpson and David Collings

Fairfax media: Vision and Voice dominate Howick Local Board

Radio NZ: National defends handling of woman’s complaint against Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: National aware of Jami-Lee Ross grievances for years

Fairfax media: Toxic relationships with Jami-Lee Ross reported

The Spinoff: ‘I am just motivated to cut throats’: meet Jami Lee-Ross’s political mastermind

NZ Herald: Jami-Lee Ross saga – Identity of ‘Cathedral Club’ donor revealed

TVNZ: After horror week, Simon Bridges takes a hit in latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

Radio NZ: Tau Henare – ‘NZ has never seen anything like this’

NZ Herald: MP Jami-Lee Ross admitted to mental health care

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross has been ‘sectioned’ – but what does that actually mean?

ODT: Jami-Lee Ross out of hospital, ‘not focusing on politics’

NZ Herald: National’s leader Simon Bridges rings Dirty Politics blogger to talk Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 23 October 2018

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 24 October 2018

NZ Herald: Special report – Simon Bridges v Jami-Lee Ross – the National Party Botany Bagman and his plan for political survival

Additional

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross and the shadow of Dirty Politics

Twitter: Jami-Lee Ross – 15 August 2018

Sharechat: Bridges denies Ross allegations, welcomes police inquiry

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel (alt-link)

Other Blogs

Whaleoil: Despicable text sent to Jami-Lee Ross by female MP

Kiwiblog: The terrible personal cost

Chris Trotter:  Questions, Questions, Questions

Martyn Bradbury:  Could the Spinoff be possibly wrong about JLR? Maybe?

The Standard:  Bridges loses connection with reality

The Standard:  Nothing to worry about

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 October 2018.

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= fs =

While the Left fiddles, the Right beats their war-drum

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While the Left has been fiddling about with much gnashing of teeth and tears of concern over the right of two Canadian neo-fascists to speak at an Auckland City council venue – National’s focus has been laser-like at regaining power in 2020.

Like rust, the Right doesn’t sleep. Their failure to install a fourth-term National government came about only because of a fatal mis-step by (most likely) someone in the National Party/Government in a clumsy, ham-fisted ploy to undermine Winston Peters and cripple NZ First in last year’s general election.

Whoever released Peters’ superannuation over-payments to the media did so with political malice-aforethought. It was an agenda to neuter Peters and his party, and it was executed with callous precision.

It failed  because Peters was canny enough to counter with a parry that revealed the ploy for the ruthless strategy that it was.

The black-ops plan succeeded in only alienating Peters and reminding him that National was not to be trusted. With thirtythree years political experience, Peters had no intention to be anyone’s “useful idiot”.

With no potential coalition partner on the horizon (unless one is manufactured by a National MP splintering from his party), National’s only remaining options are;

  1. Coalition with the Greens. Chances: worse than winning Powerball Lotto.
  2. Winning 50%-plus of the Party Vote. Chances: somewhat better than Option One.

National opened it’s 2020 election campaign with three salvos of highly publicised policy released with much fanfare at it’s recent conference.

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Charter Schools

For most middle and upper-middle class voters Charter Schools are a non-issue. Their children either attend State schools, Integrated Schools, or Private Schools. The common thread between all three is that they are established; staffed with qualified professionals; and the curriculum is bog-standard (with minor variations-on-a-theme.)

Charter Schools would appear to further  ghettoise education for lower socio-economic families – a fact already well-known as “white flight” from low-decile State schools.

National’s hard-line stance to increase Charter School numbers should it be re-elected to power is curious because it would not appear to be much of a drawcard  for propertied middleclass voters who tend to vote along self-interest lines.

Which indicates that the policy has other intentions; a toxic “witches’ brew” of  ideological (further) commercialisation of education and a subtle, well-camouflaged attack on teacher’s unions.

So: not specifically designed to be a vote-winning policy. More of an  weaponised attack-policy on State education and unions.

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Classroom sizes

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising policy to be released was classroom size reduction. Made by current National Party leader, Simon Bridges on the day of the Conference opening on 29 July, he committed National to this radical (for Tories) social policy in clear english;

“All our kids should get the individual attention they deserve. That’s why I want more teachers in our primary schools, to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.

Schools currently get one teacher for every 29 nine and ten year olds. It’s lower than that for younger children.

Those ratios should be reduced.”

Mr Bridges’ newfound concern for classroom sizes harks back to several speeches made by former PM, John Key, in 2007 and 2008, where he lamented growing social problems in New Zealand.

In 2007;

“As New Zealanders, we have grown up to believe in and cherish an egalitarian society. We like to think that our children’s futures will be determined by their abilities, their motivation and their hard work. They will not be dictated by the size of their parent’s bank balance or the suburb they were born in.”

And again in 2007;

“During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

[…]

“I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.

[…]

“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.”

In 2008;

“This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist. They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.”

Once elected into power, National quiety dropped it’s concern for social problems. Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, did not even want to countenance measuring growing child poverty in this country. It suddenly became the fault of the poor.

Now Simon Bridges has dusted off National’s Manual for Crying Crocodile Tears.

Ironically, in tapping into parental fears of over-burdened schools and their children suffering because of over-worked teachers, Mr Bridges’ policy commitment stands diametrically opposed to National’s doomed policy announced on 16 May 2012 to increase classroom sizes;

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The policy was announced by gaff-prone former education minister, Hekia Parata, who  clumsily (if honestly) admitted that the move was purely for fiscal reasons;

”The reality is that we are in a tight economic environment. In order to make new investment in quality teaching and leading, we have to make some trade-offs… ”

Teachers – and more importantly, voting middle-class parents were having none of it. National’s cost-cutting of welfare, health, and state housing was one thing. But interfering with their Little Johnny and Janey’s education? Like hell.

Especially when it was revealed that then-Prime Minister, John Key’s own children attended private schools with… smaller class sizes!

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The over-powering stench of hypocrisy further infuriated the voting public. The policy lasted twentyone days before it was hastily dumped;

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Simon Bridges was unequivocal:  a National government would spend more on education;

“National will invest more to make sure our kids get the best quality start to their education, but we will also demand nothing but the highest standards.”

However, National has not explained how they will pay for the cost of additional teachers. Especially as National continues to  advocate for a billion dollar mega-prison to be built;  promised to dump the Coalition’s fuel taxes, and has not ruled out offering election tax-cut bribes.

As National has been fond of demanding: where will the money come from for extra teachers? Is this National’s own multi-billion dollar fiscal hole?

It was left to Labour’s own education minister, Chris Hipkins to point out;

“It’s very expensive to make even a modest change to class sizes and I think that’s something we want to talk to the teaching profession about.”

However, barely a day after his Conference speech, Mr Bridges was already backtracking;

Simon Bridges admits his promise of smaller class sizes may not mean fewer students per classroom.

The National leader announced a new policy to reduce the teacher-student ratio, as a centrepiece of his conference address over the weekend.

However, many primary schools run “modern learning environments” with several classes in the same room.

Bridges told Kerre McIvor National’s policy is about the number of staff per student, not the number of students per room.

” So in those modern learning environments, that may mean more teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean smaller classrooms.”

At least Hekia Parata’s plan to increase classroom sizes lasted three weeks.  Mr Bridges’ ersatz “commitment” did not last 24 hours.

The Coalition should be making mincemeat out of Mr Bridges’ policy u-turn.

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Crime

An oldie, but a goodie.  Tories understand how to tug the fear-strings of a sizeable chunk of the voting middle-class. National and other conservative parties around the world are (in)famous for manipulating middle-class fears on crime for electoral purposes.

One of their 2011 election hoardings explicitly exploited  those fears;

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A recent video campaign on National’s Facebook platform has gone a step further into whipping up fear and paranoia;

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This is a shameful, naked ploy to play on peoples’ fears.

It was backed up by former mercenary, and current National Party “Justice” Spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, who tried to offer “alternative facts” relating to crime figures;

The Government needs to stop looking for excuses to go soft on crime and come up with a plan to reduce crime, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.

“No doubt the report today from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor saying that being tough on crime is to blame for rising prison costs and inmate numbers is music to Andrew Little and Grant Robertson’s ears.

“They’ve been looking for excuses to loosen up bail and sentencing laws so that the Government doesn’t have to go ahead with building the new Waikeria prison and can boast about reducing prison numbers.

“But the cost of prisons cannot be an excuse not to put people in prison, if that’s where they need to be. The priority must be to ensure that victims are kept safe from violent criminals.

“We know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending.

“Violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011 and this is largely the type of crime that people get sent to prison for. This is also the type of crime that has the most serious and long-lasting impact on victims’ lives.

Which is confusing as not too long ago, National was trumpeting several propaganda infographics on their Twitter account;

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Mr Mitchell is at pains to point out that  “we know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending” – yet the infographics above make no such distinction. On the contrary, the second “broken bottles” infographic makes clear the figures relate to “Total Recorded Crimes”.

Perhaps they should get their propaganda straight.

In a startling admission, Mr Mitchell confirmed that ““violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011″. It appears that the “Three Strikes Law” – enacted the previous year in 2010 – has failed to reduce criminal offending.

The questions that  Coalition government ministers should be putting to their National Party colleagues are;

  1. Is it not irresponsible to be exploiting fear about crime for electoral purposes? How will knee-jerk rhetoric assist an intelligent debate on imprisonment and rehabilitation?
  2. If crime, imprisonment, and rehabilitation require cross-party concensus, will National continue to pursue electioneering on “tough on crime”?
  3. If National pursues a get-tough-on-crime election platform in 2020, and if they are elected to government – how will they pay for hundreds more prisoners jailed? Will National borrow a billion dollars to pay for a new mega-prison? Will health, education, DoC, and social housing budgets be cut? Will National increase GST, as they did in 2010 (despite promising not to)?
  4. What is the limit that National will tolerate for an increasing prison population?

National has made clear that it intends to play the “tough-on-crime” card at the next election. The propaganda campaign has already begun.

The Coalition Parties need to formulate a clear strategy to combat fear-mongering by a National party desperate to regain power.

The question that should be put to National is; where will the billions of dollars for new prisons come from?

The prison population has all but doubled in eighteen years, and tripled since 1987, as successive governments have ramped up “tough on crime” rhetoric and pandered to fearful low-information voters;

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Tough-on-crime may be National’s default strategy. If addressed correctly, it can also be their weakness.

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References

NZ Herald: Steven Joyce says he would have advised against leaking Winston Peters’ super details

The Daily Blog: Real reason why National are considering cutting ACT off

NZ Herald: National Party conference kicks off with nod for Simon Bridges from former Australian PM John Howard

Massey University: Education Policy Response Group (p30)

Fairfax media: Parents’ choice driving ‘eye-opening’ segregation in New Zealand schools

NZ Herald: National will cut primary school class sizes if it gets into Govt, Simon Bridges tells conference

NZ Herald: John Key’s ‘A fair go for all’ speech

Scoop media: National launches its Food in Schools programme

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Fairfax media: Bigger class sizes announced

NZ Herald: Key called hypocrite over class sizes

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Fairfax media: Smaller class sizes under Nats, says Simon Bridges in major speech

NewstalkZB: Simon Bridges explains smaller class size policy

Radio NZ: No promises from Hipkins on reducing class sizes

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges says scale-back of Waikeria prison flies in the face of latest prison projections

NZ Herald: Sir John Key downplays Simon Bridges’ polling ahead of National Party conference

TVNZ: Simon Bridges says he’ll dump regional fuel tax if elected

Fairfax media: Does the Government have any money for this Budget? Yes

NZ Herald: Murder and mutilation comments emerge on National’s new ‘tough on crime’ social media campaign

National Party: Prison costs cannot be excuse to go soft on crime

Twitter: National Party – The crime rate is falling under National.

Parliament Legislation: Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax media: National leader Simon Bridges talks up ‘tough on crime’ stance

Fairfax media: 20 Years of ‘tough on crime’ stance sees prison population surge

Additional

Radio NZ: Charter school report silent on educational achievement

Other Blogposts

The Daily Blog: What everyone seemed to miss in their criticism of the National Party Conference

The Daily Blog: What the 2018 National Party Conference tells us

Previous related blogposts

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 August 2018.

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The Many Mendacities of Mr Bridges – The ‘Claytons’ Apology

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On 5 June, Simon Bridges presented himself on Radio NZ’s Morning Report to address the meth-hysteria that led to three hundred state house tenants being evicted over the  last three years where “P” had been detected in a property.  The evictions took place during National’s term in office.

He apologised for National’s part in the hysteria and wrongful evictions;

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“I’m sorry that the advice we got was wrong and has made this situation what it is. We got the wrong advice, we’re not technical experts, we thought we were asking the hard questions.”

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Or, did he…?!?

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: 18 June 2018
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
The Listener

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When National’s Simon Bridges, fronted up on Radio NZ on 5 June, he apparently apologised for his role in the unjust evictions of 300 state house tenants for meth-testing results that have been shown by Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, as bogus.

Bridges said;

“I’m sorry that the advice we got was wrong and has made this situation what it is.”

Except – it’s not an apology for the wrongful evictions at all. It’s a lamentation that “the advice we got was wrong”.

He hasn’t expressed regret for 300 people and their families being evicted. He is sorry that the so-called “evidence” no longer backs up National’s policy of ridding itself of pesky state house tenants so that they could sell six thousand properties between 2008/09 and 2016/17.

In August 2016, then Housing NZ Minister, Bill English, admitted on that the meth-testing standards were unsound;

“Now, the test as I understand it, indicates the presence of any P at all which may be a very low health risk.

According to that guideline they should not be moving people into houses where there is P contamination.

It would certainly help housing New Zealand if the scientists applied themselves to coming up with a new guideline.

We would hope that within a few months there will be a standard that all the scientists regard as more appropriate. In the meantime, Housing New Zealand are doing their best to ensure that they don’t inconvenience tenants any more than is necessary.”

Housing NZ tenants weren’t just ” inconvenienced”. They lost their homes; had their possessions illegally destroyed; and were forced to pay reparations for unnecessary clean-up costs.

This was the full force of the State used against the most vulnerable people in our society.

Mr Bridges should try apologising again. This time, not for “the advice we got was wrong”.

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-Frank Macskasy

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(Address and phone number supplied)

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The “Clayton’s Apology”

The apology you’re giving when you’re not giving an apology.

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References

Radio NZ: ‘I’m sorry the advice we got was wrong’ – Simon Bridges

NZ Herald: HNZ boss Andrew McKenzie apologises to tenants evicted because of wrong meth guidelines

Radio NZ: English calls for more specific housing meth tests

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2016/17

Wikipedia: Claytons

Acknowledgement for cartoon

The Spinoff: The Side Eye – Renting in NZ means always moving out and never moving up

Additional

Radio NZ: Meth house contamination debunked by PM’s science advisor

Previous related blogposts

The Mendacities of Ms Amy Adams – 2,000 more state houses?!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 June 2018.

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Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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Act I – Post-election, Dealing the Cards

During the post-election coalition negotiations last year, there was much entrails-reading of which way NZ First would move to form a new government. Labour and NZ First? Or National and NZ First?

Then came the novel suggestion from several  media and mostly right-leaning political commentators – all with singularly hyper-active imaginations – of a potential  National-Green Coalition government. This was mentioned by Laura Walters and Katie Kenny, on 24 September (2017), both writing for Fairfax media; former National PM, Jim Bolger on 25 September, talking with John Campbell on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint; Bill English on 25 September; National’s deputy Paula Bennett on 29 September;  Jim Bolger again on 1 October; Fairfax’s Tracy Watkins on 2 October, et al…

The ‘cheerleaders’ were lining up to “encourage” (and in one instance, demand!) the installation of a ‘Teal’ Coalition.

Even former cricketer-turned-Mediaworks-AM Show presenter , Mark Richardson, offered his one cent worth of advice to Green Party leader James Shaw to  “be a risk taker and back yourself” by coalescing with the Nats. (Though Richardson admitted that a decision by Shaw to coalesce with National would “blow his Party to smithereens“. This did not seem to perturb Richardson, a self-confessed National Party supporter.)

Tracy Watkins had to concede that any coalition deal with the Nats was a lengthy, but guaranteed,  political suicide mission, “National has used up all its future coalition partners. United Future and the Maori Party are gone and ACT is on life support“.

Strangely, Shaw’s response was utterly predictable. He would take a phone call from then National-leader Bill English… but…

“It’s my responsibility to do so. And we’ll have to see what they’ve got to say. But one of the things I will be saying in return is ‘You know we campaigned on a change of government and you know what was in our manifesto … and how incongruous that is to what the National Party policy programme is’.”

Act II – Was a ‘Teal’ Deal the Real Deal?

So how viable would a coalition have been between two political parties that – on the face of things have as much in common as a chicken and a platypus?

Not much, it would seem.

On several occassions,  National’s current caretaker  Leader, Simon Bridges criticised the Green Party’s policies on social issues;

In terms of the Greens, if they were a true environmental party that wasn’t focused on other bits and bobs, they could be a party that we could work with and work with strongly,” Bridges said on Tuesday.

And;

You’ve seen me say that I think actually there is a role for us in the environment.

I do have problems with the fact that they’re more than simply an environmental party – a lot of other stuff I disagree with, but on the environment we know… New Zealanders care passionately about this.”

And;

It’s a deep red rather than Green. I’m interested in working with them on genuine conservation, environmental issues but not picketing on the streets.”

The sub-text of that narrative was for the Green Party to neuter itself. As James Shaw had to point out to Simon Bridges – much like an exasperated parent patiently explaining something to a young child;

“History has shown that people want to vote for parties on a range of issues. We’ve always said that sustainability is a function of society, of the environment, and of the economy, and you can’t disaggregate those things,”

It would not be dissimilar to the Green Party dictating to National to abandon it’s close links to corporate interests, the farming sector, and other pro-business lobby groups. A point made by recently-elected Green Party Party co-leader, and former Daily Blog contributor, Marama Davidson;

“They’ve got to change a lot. It’s not good enough that Simon’s trying to position himself as all of a sudden caring about our rivers and our water, when his very policies under his party led to the exact environmental degradation that we’re seeing. He wanted to open up drilling to our Maui dolphins’ home.

They don’t understand the connection of the flawed economic model that led to the environmental degradation in the first place. They would have to change a lot, and I don’t think that’s what they intend to do.”

So how ‘green’ is our true-blue National Party?

Act III – National plays the Green Card

On 28 April, at a so-called “Bluegreens” Forum – a greenwashed front for the National Party –  Simon Bridges made much of his party’s “green credentials“;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.

My view is that people aren’t used to hearing a National Party leader talk like this, but I’ve said right from the start that the environment is important to me and the National Party … The environment isn’t an optional extra.

Climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more.

We now need to wrestle emissions down, just staying stable doesn’t cut it … We need to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions.”

Note; the reported comment from Bridges – “Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren” – is almost a word-for-word repeat from last year’s National’s Environment policy on their website;

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Most crucially, note Bridges reference to needing “ to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions“.

Developing and implementing technological solutions” – not reducing reliance on fossil fuels. For National that was a No-Go Area.

Not so for this coalition government.

On 12 April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced  that “There will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted“. She said;

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.”

More than “a step”, it was a bold leap – perhaps one of the most radical since New Zealand declared itself a nuclear-free nation on 8 June 1987. Climate change officially became this generation’s “nuclear free moment” on 12 April 2018.

Without doubt, it would be an expensive proposition to forego possible, undiscovered, oil reserves that might be worthy millions – billions! – to our country.

But the cost of runaway climate change; increasing CO2; rising temperatures and sea levels; more energetic storms; growing threats of flooding and coastal storm surges; harsher droughts; heavier rains – would  cost us billions as well. With rising sea levels and more powerful storm surges, thousands of homes were now within coastal danger zones;

“Climate change will increasingly create severe risks for New Zealand’s coastal housing stock. Even a small amount of sea-level rise will substantially exacerbate the costs of flooding and storm surges. Under the most optimistic emissions scenario studied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global average sea levels will likely rise by between 44cm and 55cm by 2100, and around 1 m with continued high emissions. Across New Zealand, for regions with high-quality data, there are 43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm.”

According to the Ministry for the Environment, the cost of not addressing climate change threats cannot even be accurately ascertained;

The costs of inaction are difficult to quantify as they depend on the actions that the whole world takes to reduce emissions, not just New Zealand. The costs of inaction will be large but are hard to predict accurately and hard to express in monetary terms. This is also the case for modelling co-benefits of action such as air quality and health benefits. Current research and model development is beginning to address these complexities.

As a rough indicator, the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes was estimated to be about $40 billion (in 2015 dollars), which includes $16 billion  for residential construction. Around 10,000 homes were demolished due to earthquake damage. Compare that figure with Motu’s; “43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm“.

Regrettably, National’s green rhetoric and Simon Bridges’ pious claims were not matched with more recent stated intentions – intentions that pose a direct threat to the long-term environmental well-being of our country as well as the entire planet.

Despite Simon Bridges asserting that “climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more” – National was going to do everything in it’s power to oppose practical solutions to reduce climate gas emissions.

Bridges point-blank refused to “do much more“.

Act IV – Blue card trumps Green for Bridges?

Soon after Prime Minister Ardern issued her government’s 12 April Declaration, Bridges responded like a child with his favourite toy taken off him;

If we are the Government in two years we will change it back.”

Bridges’ double-speak on environmental matters was pointed out by Fairfax’s Laura Walters in no uncertain terms;

Bridges had made a point of talking about National’s future environmental direction, and saying he would be open to working with the Green Party in the future – something the Greens have said was unlikely to happen.

However, when he was asked about his plans for the environment on Thursday, he was not able to point to any policies, or general policy areas.

In case Bridges protests at being “unfairly misquoted” in the media, his follow MPs were also vociferous in their opposition to the coalition government’s decision to curtail further offshore oil and gas exploration. In a recent press release, National’s Energy and Resources Spokesperson, Jonathan Young, said;

“The Government’s decision to ban gas and petroleum exploration is economic vandalism that makes no environmental sense […]

This decision will ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high paying jobs and $2.5 billion for the economy.

Without exploration there will be no investment in oil and gas production or the downstream industries. That means significantly fewer jobs.

This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.”

And in a bizarre twist, National’s own Climate Change spokesperson, Todd Muller, also condemned winding back New Zealand’s fossil fuel industry. In the same press release as Jonathan Young, he said;

“The decision makes no sense – environmentally or economically – because less gas production means more coal being burnt and higher carbon emissions.

Many overseas countries depend on coal for energy production. Those CO2 emissions would halve if they could switch to natural gas while they transition to renewable energy.

By stopping New Zealand’s gas exploration we are turning our backs on an opportunity to help reduce global emissions while providing a major economic return to improve our standard of living and the environment.

We need to reduce global CO2 emissions. But there is no need to put an entire industry and thousands of New Zealanders’ jobs at risk.

The Government’s decision today is another blow to regional New Zealand, and Taranaki in particular.

It comes hot on the heels of big decisions that reduce roading expenditure, cancel irrigation funding, and discourage international investment in the regions.”

Todd Mueller has the wrong job title. With his unwavering support  for the fossil fuel industry and increased roading expenditure, he should be National’s Increasing Greenhouse Gas Emissions spokesperson. Nothing that Mueller has said would lead to any reduction in dangerous emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The press release from Young and Mueller was also dated 12 April;

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– the same day Prime Minister Ardern released her statement to wind-back oil and gas exploration off our coast. This indicates how long and hard Young and Mueller must have thought deeply on this matter  before issuing their press release.

Not content with being advocates for the fossil fuel industry, Simon Bridges announced eighteen days later that a National government would over-turn the coalition government’s regional fuel tax in Auckland;

“A re-elected National Party will overturn the Government’s regional fuel tax to leave more money in the back pockets of hard-working New Zealand families.

Regional fuel taxes are unfair on New Zealanders. They are regressive, and hit poorer New Zealanders the hardest.

The fuel taxes the Government has announced will leave a typical Auckland family around $700 a year out of pocket.

The regional fuel tax is simply punishing Aucklanders for the Government and the Council’s lack of fiscal discipline.

[…]

And to Councils I say don’t get used to this raid on the back pockets of hard working New Zealanders because a re-elected National Government will repeal this tax.”

Bridges attacked Auckland Mayor Phil Goff;

“Auckland Council is a clear case in point. We know it is a free spender of rate-payers money. It was true under Len Brown and it’s true under Phil Goff.”

Which contrasted with former National Party leader and PM, John Key, who all but endorsed Phil Goff’s bid for the mayoralty in 2015;

“Phil Goff has been a very long standing member of Parliament. It was quite a combative relationship when he was leader of the opposition, but there’s no question he had a big work rate and he was a very effective minster.”

Simon Bridges obviously didn’t get the memo from Key’s office that Goff “was a very effective minster“.

It is also worth remembering that when National was in power, they also raised the petrol excise duty by nine cents per litre over a three year period, with Road user charges increasing similarly. In March 2009, National’s Transport Minister, Steven Joyce announced;

”Our preference is for a simpler system which delivers benefits to road users across the board.” From 1 October this year motorists will pay an increase of 3 cents per litre in fuel excise duty and drivers of diesel vehicles will pay the equivalent in road user charges. A second 3 cents increase will occur at October 1 next year. Each 3 cent per litre increase includes an annual increase of 1.5 cents per litre scheduled by the previous government.

…these smaller adjustments to roading excise and road user charges across New Zealand will make more funding available for roading across the country.”

Evidently, increasing fuel excise taxes for more roads (and thereby more cars) is a good thing. But increasing  fuel excise taxes to fund public transport initiatives – thereby assisting in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – is a bad thing. How else could one interpret National’s contradictory statements and policies?

National took matters a step further when they announced on Twitter a petition to persuade the coalition government to reverse it’s decision to ban offshore exploration;

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This wasn’t just Opposition for the sake of opposition. National’s petition signalled a deep ideological opposition to any steps  that would reduce the production of fossil fuels  in this country. The prospect of losing revenue from this industry – despite being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – was simply too much for National to contemplate.

National was signalling to all and sundry that given a choice between maintaining the fossil fuel industry and keeping the revenue stream from it – or beginning a slow phase-out and reduced revenue, the winner would always be industry.

And the environment be damned.

So much for the pious sentiments from Bridges at the National’s Bluegreen Conference;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.”

So with National’s antipathy to taking the crucial, hard steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, what was National’s reasoning to entice the Green Party into a coalition deal (or at least a confidence and supply arrangement)?

The answer came from Bluegreens co-chairman, Geoff Thompson. Thompson was unequivocally clear in his stated intention to using his front-organisation as a way for National to return to power;

“We’re a well-liked party … but it’s not good enough. Forty-four per cent [in a recent poll] doesn’t get us there so we want to expand and we see the environmental side of the party, that’s us, as being an opportunity for that expansion.”

For National, “to expand … we see the environmental … as being an opportunity for that expansion” was the answer.

Appealing to the Green Party to work with National would have been made with generous offers.

But the reality is that the Nats would have demanded that the Greens abandon;

  • their “red green” “bits and bobs” social policies;
  • their policies to move away from oil and gas exploration;
  • and policies to improve public transport in Auckland through regional fuel taxes

In short, the Green Party would have found itself neutered on their environmental as well as social policies.

That would have left the Greens with no alternative but to dump their coalition deal, thereby probably triggering an early election. And we all know how voters treat small political parties that cause early elections.

Simon Bridges and his National Party have demonstrated through their opposition to abandoning offshore oil and gas exploration permits that they have very little interest in environmental issues. It is even doubtful they will ever fully  honour the Paris Climate Agreement.

As early as 2012, National had already broken it’s commitment to include agriculture in the emissions trading scheme;

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National’s behaviour in the last few months have proven that a coalition with the Green Party is not only impossible – but fraught with danger of broken promises and backsliding on environmental commitments.

National would always give pre-eminence to industry; fossil fuel production, and building roads.  Environmentalism, alternative fuels, and public transport would always taken second priority – if at all.

Epilogue – Whatever the game, Physics Wins. Always.

In June 2016, atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million (ppm) at NIWA’s Clean Air Monitoring Station at Baring Head, Wellington;

It came a year after it was crossed at the Mauna Loa station in Hawaii, which has recorded a 24 per cent rise in carbon dioxide levels since it began gathering data in 1958.

[…]

Last month, the level was passed at the Australian monitoring station at Cape Grim, Tasmania.

Like something out of Neville Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, “On The Beach“, but instead of a deadly radioactive cloud, heightened CO2 levels have reached Australia, and shortly thereafter, New Zealand.

In April last year, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory detected CO2 reaching 410 parts per million for the first time in our recorded history.

We should be recording that level about now, here at the bottom of the world.

It is a grim reminder that rising CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide wait for no man (or woman). Not even for Simon Bridges.

Meanwhile, NIWA reported that January 2018 was New Zealand’s hottest month on record;

NIWA figures show average temperatures for the month of January across the country was 20.3°C.

The temperature for January normally averages 17.1°.

NIWA climate scientist Gregor Macara said the month’s temperatures were unprecedented.

“It was unusual that the entire country seemed to observe temperatures that weren’t only above average, but really considerably above average.”

“The majority of observation stations we had observed temperatures more than 3° above normal and in fact there are quite a few sites that were 4° above normal which were essentially unprecedented – particularly for this time of year,” he said.

While we baked, Simon Bridges and his cronies in the National Party were planning to over-turn any practical steps taken by the current coalition government to do our bit to try to reduce CO2 emissions.

This is why any talk of a Greens coalition with National is ludicrous.  National’s policies, ideology, and base-support is not compatible with environmental protection.

National is part of the problem.

The Joker in the pack

From April 2014;

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“Out of touch” doesn’t even begin to cover Simon Bridges and the environment.

 

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Note: All National Party webspages have been downloaded and saved for future reference. (They have a ‘habit’ of disappearing after a while.)

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References

Radio NZ: NZ First to meet National and Labour today

Fairfax media:  The coalitions that could form NZ’s 52nd Government and how likely they are

Fairfax media:  The day after the election

Radio NZ: Former PM Jim Bolger on how to deal with Winston Peters

Newsroom: National single-minded about its only option

Fairfax media: National wants conversation with Greens, official talks yet to begin

Fairfax media: Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

NZ Herald: Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Politically Correct – Green Party won’t pick up the phone

Fairfax media:  AM Show host Mark Richardson’s advice to Green Party leader – ‘Be a risk-taker’

Fairfax media: Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

Fairfax media: Bridges offers olive branch out to Greens, only to be quickly shot down

Mediaworks: National open to working with Greens, NZ First – Simon Bridges

Mediaworks:  National needs to ‘change a lot’ to get Greens onside – Marama Davidson

Fairfax media:  National Party ‘resetting our approach to environmental issues’ – Bridges

National Party: 2017 Environment Policy

Beehive.govt.nz: Planning for the future – no new offshore oil and gas exploration permits

NZhistory.govt.nz: New Zealand goes nuclear-free

Fairfax media: How climate change could send your insurance costs soaring

Motu: Insurance, Housing and Climate Change Adapation:Current Knowledge and future research

Ministry for the Environment: Modelling the economic costs of New Zealand’s intended nationally determined contribution

RBNZ:  The Canterbury rebuild five years on from the Christchurch earthquake

NZ Herald: Christchurch Earthquake: 100,000 homes damaged, 10,000 unsavable

Fairfax media:  Nats would reverse Govt’s decision on oil and gas exploration

National Party: Gas and petroleum decision is economic vandalism

National Party: National to overturn Government’s regional fuel tax

NZ Herald: John Key willing to work with Phil Goff

Ministry of Transport:  Increases to petrol excise duty and road user charges

Beehive.govt.nz: Regional fuel taxes replaced

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Ministry for the Environment: The Paris Agreement

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Scientists record symbolic milestone, and it’s not one to celebrate

NIWA: Baring Head greenhouse gases

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist: The continuing relevance of “On the Beach”

Scientific American: We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2

Radio NZ: January 2018 NZ’s hottest month on record

Mediaworks: Minister didn’t know park was in drilling plan

Additional

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  The Politics of Green Coalitions – rethinking our strategy and positioning

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  Which way Winston, and what’s in it for the Greens?

Ministry for the Environment: Overview of likely climate change impacts in New Zealand

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

ETS – National continues to fart around

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 May 2018.

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The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

5 March 2018 7 comments

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The Left are disappointed; the Toxic Twins – Judith Collins and  Steven Joyce – failed to seize leadership of the National Party. The coldly psychopathic eyes of  Collins, and the menacingly malignant grin of Joyce, will not be scaring New Zealand voters witless in 2020.

Instead, the boyish grin of Simon Bridges will be leading the National Party – until he won’t, after their inevitable defeat at the next election.

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Speaking with Radio NZ’s Checkpoint host, John Campbell, Bridges first interview as leader of the Nats began with an inanely cliched reference to “asperational”  young New Zealanders;

@ 14.28:

“We’ve got a very strong economy at the moment… To build on that, and ensure that is is a place where young New Zealanders can get ahead and do well, don’t feel they need to get on a plane to go overseas, probably to Australia, that’s really important to me…”

Bridges was parroting a speech filled with almost identical rhetoric by his former boss and mentor, Dear Leader Key;

“When the going gets this tough, is it any wonder that Kiwis look longingly at our Aussie cousins? Our Aussie cousins, who get paid a third more than us for doing the same job […] Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch. We have to give them better reasons to stay.”

Key made those comment in January 2008 – a little over a decade ago.

Since then, migration has risen sharply under National’s watch, pushing up demands on housing, education, healthcare, roading, and other services/infrastructure.

In essence, Bridges referenced a problem that no longer exists.

But perhaps the worst moment came a few minutes later, when he referred to National’s “legacies”. Amongst Bridge’s list of “crowning achievements” over the last nine years, Bridges listed;

@ 16.18

“But what is true, John, is that if you look at my record as a Minister whether is in Transport where I led, I think, incredibly progressive moves in public transport, in cycleways, in electric vehicles, in a range of areas, people can see a very modern face of National…”

Bridges’ “progressive moves” on electric vehicles are in his mind only.

In 2016, he actively decided not to electrify the state fleet, opting instead for traditional vehicles;

Cabinet has pulled the handbrake on its Electric Vehicles plan, pulling proposals to help agencies cover the extra cost, documents show.

But Transport Minister Simon Bridges says he canned the two proposals, in order to be “more ambitious” later.

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Bridges’ explanation was mealy-mouthed, to put it mildly;

“Given this, it is likely that government agencies will favour cheaper conventional vehicles over an EV equivalent […] But I decided, in the end, that the bulk buying proposal that is now being investigated – and I hope implemented – is much more significant than the kickstarter and the demonstration programme.” “

No wonder the Green Party’s transport spokeswoman, Julie Anne Genter, was critical of Bridges’ luke-warm response to EVs;

“So far Simon Bridges has seemed keen to appear in every possible photo-op, and be seen to do something without actually committing any resources or policy that would be effective.

It can hardly be considered ambitious. But it does seem to suggest he knows that the announcement is totally ineffective and won’t lead to an increase in the number of electric vehicles.

He’s chosen a target he thinks will happen without any Government intervention or support.”

A year later, only eight of 2,000 vehicles bought for various government bodies were EVs.

Eight.

That was the “legacy” that Simon Bridges ‘crowed’ about to John Campbell.

Not exactly a glowing start to his temporary tenure as National’s leader. In fact, Bridges’ “legacy” could be better summed up as one of the architects of repressive legislation designed to prevent protest against deep sea mining off New Zealand’s coast;

…Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“

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Is it any surprise the Greens wanted nothing to do with National during coalition talks last year?

Simon Bridges, Leader of the National Party: more of the same.

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References

Radio NZ:  Checkpoint with John Campbell, Tuesday 27th February 2018 (alt.link: Youtube)

NZ Herald:  John Key – State of the Nation speech

Fairfax media:  Cabinet handbrake proves ‘government lack of leadership’ on electric vehicles – Greens

Radio NZ: Govt advised to rev up electric car roll-out

Radio NZ: Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

Previous related blogposts

Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

A message from Greenpeace about Simon Bridges

Letter to the Editor: Simon Bridges is a very naughty little boy!

Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges

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

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“Fool me once”…

17 November 2017 5 comments

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Fool me once, shame on you.

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Fool me twice, shame on me!

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That was then, this is now (1)

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

Bridges claimed;

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

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

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

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

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

The National government SOC report stated;

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

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

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

“Disadvantage”?

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

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

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

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

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

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Hypocrisy, National-style

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National’s Simon Bridges also said on 6 November;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Treachery, National-style

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding;

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

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

National MPs lack honour.

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National’s desperation to remain relevant

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

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

#1: Polling Decay in Opposition

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

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

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

#2: Dismantling the Neo-liberal Paradigm

Chris Trotter wrote on 26 October;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They know the clock is ticking.

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That was then, this is now (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… It didn’t win the vote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which English could only reply:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As does the media.

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

On 9 November, an editorial writer cautioned National;

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

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

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

And on 10 November, similar warnings were issued;

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

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

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

 

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

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References

Parliament: Simon Bridges

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

National Party:  Government trying to limit scrutiny

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

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

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

Radio NZ:  Unions seek prosecution over deaths

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

Parliament: Health and Safety Reform Bill

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

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

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

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Time:  The Richest People in the World

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

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2017 General Election – Official Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Blogs

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

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

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

Previous related blogposts

National, on Law and Order

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

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

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

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National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

18 July 2014 2 comments

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noddy

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National MPs and ministers have been busy this year with more botch-ups, scandals, an attempted smear campaign, and spinning bullshit to cover their arses with multiple policy failures in health, education, the environment, child poverty, etc, etc, etc…

The fact that National still appears to be riding high in political polls speaks more for a population heavily sedated by trivia and superficial “news” reporting, and for mind-numbingly inane mass-entertainment – rather than any actual success.

Some of the more mind-blowing comments that have recently been made by National ministers have flown below the radar.

Amy Adams

Our so-called “Environment” Minister, Amy Adams, recently dismissed Dr Mike Joy’s criticisms of National’s new water standards.

Dr Joy stated;

But Dr Mike Joy, an environmental ecologist at Massey university, says the new standards are a “backwards step for fresh water”.

“You could just drive a truck through it,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

“There’s so many gaps, so many things we’ve been measuring up until now that they’ve dropped.”

The changes put limits on the amount of toxins and bacteria that can be present in water, which the Government says will require some communities and farms to improve their waste-disposal systems.

But the weakening of other limits were essentially a “licence to pollute,” Joy said, and would allow for a big increase in the amount of pollution in rivers.

“We’ve got a decline going on,” he said.

“Rivers are getting worse, lakes are getting worse. This should be something that puts the brakes on, but instead it’s an opening-up. It’s like lifting the speed limit from 50kmh to 500kmh – that’s the kind of level of change around nitrate pollution.”

Joy said more than 90 per cent of rivers in lowland areas – those coming from urban areas and farms – were already too dangerous to swim in.

To which Adams responded;

Ms Adams also corrected the Green Party’s and Dr Joy’s comparison of nitrogen levels in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers to those in the Yangtzee River.

“Although the Yangtze River indeed has serious pollution issues, nitrogen is not the core pollutant there.

In fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the primary issue for the Yangtze River is industrial and sewage waste and the management of sediments, rather than nitrogen.”

What the World Wide Fund for Nature (which Adams mis-quoted) really stated was;

“The major pollutants in the Yangtze mainstem are suspended substances, oxidizing organic and inorganic compounds, and ammonia nitrogen. This has severely reduced drinking water quality and contributed to dramatic eutrophication.”

And from the Science Daily;

For the first time, a team including foreign scientists was authorized by the Chinese government to study water quality on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River…

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For example, nitrogen concentrations have approximately doubled over the past 20 years. In Shanghai, concentrations of dissolved nitrogen were twice as high as at the Three Gorges Dam, reflecting the increasing use of mineral fertilizers in agriculture…

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However, where the river enters the East China Sea, the huge pollutant loads are expected to have devastating effects: each day, 1500 tonnes of nitrogen is discharged, causing eutrophication and growth of blue-green algae in the coastal waters…

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In the Yangtze, concentrations of nitrogen, metals and organic compounds are increasing, as shown by comparisons with earlier measurements in the literature.

As usual with right-wingers, it pays to check their “facts”. They’re usually bullshit. (As well as batshit crazy.)

Dr Mike Joy – 1

Amy Adams – 0

Paula Bennett

Bennett seems not to know where she stands on the problem of New Zealand’s hidden rape culture.

On 10 July, on TV3’s Third Degree, Bennett accepted the reality of our rape culture;

And you can see it in the language that is used by some people. You can certainly see it in pretty much a pub or a nightclub in New Zealand on most weekends to be quite frank. So we have a lot of education to do there, I think.”

Two days later, she changed her mind, this time on TV3’s The Nation;

I wouldn’t say that we’ve got a rape culture or a sexual violence culture in New Zealand…

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I think what we do in New Zealand is we report more [sexual violence] than any other country. So actually some of those that are being reported are incidences that haven’t even led to violence.”

On 10 July, on Third Degree,  Bennett accepted that her government had failed Tania Billingsley;

Could things have been handled differently? We’re the first ones that have said yes it should have been. But for her I feel incredibly sad that the incident has happened in the beginning. And that’s where most of her hurt and anger is.”

Again, after two days, Bennett’s views seemed to have changed, as this exchange on The Nation showed;

Lisa Owen: “Ok, so how do you think that your male colleagues handled the alleged assault on Tania Billingsley and the departure of the Malaysian diplomat? Did they lose sight of the victim? Did they trivialise that?

Paula Bennett: “Well look I’m not prepared to go into what has happened in that case.  But my short answer to that would be no.”

How can a politician not keep her story straight within only a 48 hour period?!

Then again, this is the same politician who made full use of the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free University education for herself – and then promptly dumped it in 2009.

Paula Bennett (2.0)

On TV’s The Nation, Lisa Owen took Paula Bennett to task on our growing endemic rate of child poverty. Owen pointed out to Bennett;

“…people like Jonathan Boston say that eradicating poverty is a political choice. Is it just that you’re not making a big enough political choice? A billion dollars, an extra billion dollars a year he said will make an enormous dent in this.”

To which Bennett replied with the stock-standard come-back from right-wing witless politicians;

I don’t think it’s throwing more money at it across the board if you like…

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It is not going to be throwing more money at those on welfare...”

Because, as we all know, “throwing money” at the poorest in our society apparently doesn’t work to pull children out of poverty.

But “throwing money” at corporations such as Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, Charter Schools,  et al, to “create jobs” or give “choice for better education” to parents, does work.

Or “throwing money” at people by way of tax cuts works to “stimulate the economy“.

Strangely, “throwing money” at welfare beneficiaries –  by way of a Training Incentive Allowance –  helped former solo-mother,  Paula Bennett, obtain a free tertiary education and she is currently (until 20 September) a  highly-remunerated Minister of the Crown.

So why is “throwing money” by way of corporate welfare; tax-cuts; Charter school subsidies, etc, a ‘good‘ thing – but “throwing money” at poverty to eliminate this scourge from 21st century New Zealand – is a ‘bad‘ thing?!

National ministers have yet to answer this question.

God knows we “throw enough money” at them with their generous salaries.

Simon Bridges

This was one of National’s  election platforms in 2011;

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National Party staying strong on crime

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Staying strong on crime“.

Except when National decides that a particular law is “inconvenient”. Then it will instruct it’s ministeries not to prosecute offenders. As Minister Simon Bridges recently instructed the Labour Inspectorate;

 

Radio New Zealand has obtained documents under the Official Information Act which show the Labour Inspectorate has moved away from the proactive approach to enforcement and has redistributed its efforts to crack down on illegial migrant workers.

Traditionally labour inspectors have been out on the streets at Easter, catching out shop owners who open illegally, but will now wait for members of the public to complain about shops being open and will follow those up with warning letters.

Special briefing notes from the Labour Inspectorate General Manager George Mason to the minister show the inspectorate has questioned the effectiveness of the shop trading act, which allows for a $1,000 penalty for breaches of the law.

In many cases the judicial system was reluctant to impose the maximum fine, Mr Mason told the minister.

He said in recent years not many complaints from the public were received and this year not a single shop was prosecuted for opening at Easter.

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But Simon Bridges said shops can still be prosecuted and will be if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary.

The law will be upheld – if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary?!

When a government will not uphold the law because it conflicts with their own ideological stance – then why have laws at all?

And can the rest of us pick and choose which laws are convenient to uphold, and which we can break?

It appears so…

Mr Bridges is showing us the way.

Murray McCully

After the debacle of the Malaysian diplomat, accused of burglary and attempted rape, and the question over why Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully failed to keep track over events in his own ministry, an inquiry was launched on 11 July.

McCully stated;

A thorough and transparent inquiry is important, as those managing diplomatic immunity issues for the Government need to enjoy the full, unfettered confidence of the New Zealand public.”

Although one wonders just how “ thorough and transparent” any inquiry will be when,

  1. The terms of reference do not include Murray  McCully’s actions. This effectively gives the minister an ‘escape clause’ from the fiasco.
  2. John Key has already pre-determined who the guilty party is, within the Ministry,  when he stated on 4 July; “If that person doesn’t have clarity about that position then they need to think very strongly about whether they’re in the right job.”
  3. Rob Hosking from the National Business Review suggested that the Inquiry will “not likely to be [completed] before the September 20 election”. How ‘convenient’.

Hekia Parata

On 8 June 2012, as National’s planned to increase class-room sizes blew up in their faces with a combined teacher-parent revolt, I wrote;

Parata’s Plan to cut teaching staff and increase classroom sizes was dressed up as “improving teaching quality and professional leadership” – which was exposed as patent bollocks when she stated,

  “The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership.”

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.

That is the real crux of the matter; an ongoing programme of  reduction in  social services because of two tax cuts we could ill afford, and which National was irresponsible in making.

Two years later: On 7 July, Radio NZ’s Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, spoke to National’s  accident-prone Hekia Parata and put it to her that Labour’s plans  to reduce class-room sizes by 2018 were proving very popular with parents. Ferguson pointed out that Labour’s policy was in direct opposition with Parata’s  humiliating failure to increase class-room sizes.

At 3.05 into the interview, Parata replied,

And at the time we were in a different fiscal environment and we were focusing right then on how did we find the money to invest in quality. And now we’re in a better fiscal environment, we can do both,both more teachers and more quality...”

Which is confirmation, if any was needed, that National’s plans to reduce teacher numbers and increase class-room sizes was nothing more than an outrageous cost-cutting exercise. Happily, it failed as New Zealanders stood up, en masse, and told National,

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No Art 050425e

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New Zealanders were not prepared to sacrifice their children’s learning and future on the alter to National’s cost-cutting. If Key and his cronies were foolish enough to cut taxes as part of their 2008 election bribes, it was most certainly not going to be paid for by the children of the middle classes.

So far, #Teamkey seems to be going ‘swimmingly’ well.

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References

Fairfax media: Water rule changes seen as ‘licence to pollute’

World Wildlife Fund: Threat of Pollution in the Yangtze

Science Daily: First-ever Precise Data On Yangtze Water Quality

TV3: Minister agrees with diplomat’s alleged victim

TV3: The Nation Interview – Paula Bennett (transcript)

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

Scoop media: Warner Brothers Hobbit Deal a $67 Milllion Farce

NZ Herald: Editorial – Charter schools will give poorer parents choice

Beehive.govt.nz: Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Radio NZ: Govt defends trading law enforcement

Dominion Post: Malaysian diplomat case inquiry head named

NZ Herald: Diplomat case: Court file released

TV3: Ministerial inquiry launched into diplomat case

Interest.co.nz: Key suggests mid-level MFAT diplomat “considers career options”

NBR: McCully announces inquiry into MFAT’s handling of Malaysian diplomat allegations

Scoop media:  Teacher funding ratios to remain the same

Radio NZ:  Listen Hekia Parata on Morning Report

Radio NZ:  Labour pledges to reduce class sizes

Previous related blogposts

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy


 

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Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 July 2014.

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National, on Law and Order

 

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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Back in 2008 and 2011, National was very, very BIG on the usual “law and order”, thrashing the issue in a way that only right-wing/conservative political parties can, when in high-gear, election-mode. One of their 2011 election billboards (see above) specifically pointed to National’s “strong on crime” stance.

On 27 May 2007, John Key said,

“I want to make one thing clear. I don’t make excuses for criminal behaviour because I believe every individual is responsible for their actions and must be held accountable for them.”

Key added,

“Don’t just think, though, that the responsibility for rejecting criminal behaviour falls solely on the police. Ordinary New Zealanders, politicians and government agencies have an important role to play…

Unfortunately, most of National’s media-driven focus appears to be on the more visible forms of crime involving violence, or ‘populist’ issues such as “boy racers“, car-crushing, and welfare fraud.

You are more likely to be on National’s ‘hit list’ for demonstrating “tough on crime” if you commit “crimes against a person“, rather than  law-breaking by business; the financially successful;  or coalition-partner politicians.  An example is National’s pre-occupation with welfare fraud;

“Welfare fraud of any kind is unacceptable.  It takes money away from the people who need it and undermines confidence in our welfare system.” –  John Key

Welfare “fraud” is worth an estimated $23 million – but pales in  comparison against tax fraud of $7.4 billion;

Dr Lisa Marriott, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Accounting and Commercial Law, is investigating the differences in prosecution outcomes for the two offences, both of which, she says, involve money, are premeditated and have the same victims—the Government and society.

“One is not giving what you should and the other is taking what you shouldn’t.”

Her analysis of court data on the most serious offending from 2008–2011 shows that 22 percent of people found guilty of tax offences received a custodial sentence while 60 percent of benefit fraudsters were imprisoned.

National’s rhetoric and track  record appears to be less enthusiastic to up-hold the law when it come to the Well Off, rather than Working-class Offenders.

Recent examples further highlight National’s soft-on-crime approach to commercial and politically-motivated offences.

Strike 1. John Banks

Perhaps the most notorious and public of National’s selective approach to enforcing law and order – their refusal to prosecute then-ACT-leader, John Banks, for allegedly making false electoral returns after the 2010 mayoral election in Auckland.

The revelations that followed Grant Robertson’s accusations in Parliament led to a media-storm and police investigation where John  Banks was formally questioned by Police in a three-hour long interview.

In July 2012, Police decided not to prosecute John Banks citing “lack of evidence”, and a strange reference to a “stature of limitations”, to lay charges.

John Key’s response?

In refusing to read the police report, Key said,

“I haven’t read that police report and I’m not going to because I don’t need to … It’s not my job to do a forensic analysis. What I can tell you is, the law doesn’t work.”

In a further feat of sophistry and mental gymnastics, Key added,

“The test is whether they enjoy my confidence, and if a minister tells me, ‘This is my position and this is what I’ve done’, I accept their word in good faith unless it’s proven otherwise.”

On 16 October 2013,  retired accountant, Graham McCready, launched a private prosecution against  John Banks   and  the matter headed to Court. Subsequently, Crown Law took over the prosecution case.

After prevarications and failings by the Police, the Prime Minister, Crown Law, and the “establishment” in general, it took one lone citizen to start the wheels of justice rolling.

Evidently allegations of corruption by a senior politician did not merit this government’s attention. Especially when the Prime Minister “accepts their word in good faith”.

Strike 2. Easter Trading

Despite the law being quite explicit, each year various retail outlets flout the law by trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Gardening centres seem to be one of the worst recidivist offenders, despite the fact that out of four days in Easter they need only be closed on one: Good Friday.

With repeat, pre-planned, determined offending, the fine of $1,000 appears to be a “business cost” that retailers will wear, in their pursuit for profit.

Imagine if a burglar or car-converter not only planned repeat offending, but advertised it on nationwide media, and expected only a small fine if caught?!

This year, it appears that in some areas the risk of a fine was not even present;

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NZ Herald - Wanaka Easter traders knew inspectors would be absent

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Southland Times - Wanaka Easter traders escape prosecution

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TV3 - PM favours Easter trading law change

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NewstalkZB - Wanaka businesses escape Easter trading laws action

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Dear Leader’s response? Does John Key demand to know why labour inspectors were not doing their job? Does he demand to know who “tipped” off Wanaka traders? Does he reassert that the law will be upheld until such time as it is changed in Parliament?

No, he does not say any of those things.

Key demonstrates his “tough on crime” response by blaming the law itself;

“The problem you’ve got is it’s always been a conscience vote and it’s been a combination of the unions asserting its influence on probably the left of politics and joined by those who have strong religious beliefs. In my view, the law doesn’t work very well and it should be overhauled.”

On MSN News, Key stated;

“There’s only one way to resolve it and that’s not to encourage people to break the law but build a parliamentary majority for change.”

That is indeed correct. Turning a blind eye on illegal activity not only throws the law into disrepute – but makes Parliament itself irrelevant. It suggests that the governing Party can determine what the law is, without proper Parliamentary oversight. In some parts of the world, this is known as a One Party state.

A previous National Party Prime Minister – Robert Muldoon – did precisely this, after winning the 1975 General Election. He advised employers to cease making deductions for the compulsory superannuation fund before Parliament had had the chance to repeal the law.

If National wants to repeal or amend the Holidays Act, it should do so honestly and present it’s case to Parliament.  Let there be open public debate so that the public can present it’s submissions to Parliament.

But it is too gutless to do so, and has taken the easier option; ignoring the law altogether.

Who was responsible for directing labour inspectors not to visit Wanaka?

Did it have ministerial approval?

And why isn’t the government investigating who issued the directive?

By ignoring this issue, National is law-making by law-breaking.

Strike 3. Worksafe

Without doubt, according to Worksafe NZ, the three deadliest occupations in this country are agriculture (112 fatalities, 2008-13) , construction (61), and forestry (35). Manufacturing and Transport/Postal/Warehousing came fourth-equal at 25 fatalities from 2008 to 2013. (If it hadn’t been for the Pike River disaster in 2010, which killed 29 men, mining would be one of the safest occupations.)

Added to the grim death toll are the hundreds of work-related injuries in the forestry sector.

Worksafe NZ has been tasked with improving our appalling safety record when it comes to deaths and injuries.  As outlined on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website;

The Government has established WorkSafe New Zealand (WorkSafe NZ), a stand-alone Crown agent with its own governance board, as part of its reform of the New Zealand workplace health and safety system.

WorkSafe NZ began on 16 December 2013 when the health and safety functions of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment transferred to the new agency.

The creation of a stand-alone health and safety regulatory agency was a key recommendation of both the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy and the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.

WorkSafe NZ signals a new era. With a single-minded focus on workplace health and safety issues, the agency provides a single point of accountability and seeks to play a leadership role in improving New Zealand’s health and safety performance.

Worksafe NZ’s role ranges from “providing guidance and information on workplace health and safety to duty holders and to the community” to  “monitoring and enforcing compliance with the primary workplace health and safety legislation“.  A full description of their functions is given on their website.

As Worksafe NZ’s own website chart clearly shows, the number of workplace deaths in the forestry industry has been steadily increasing since 2007;

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Worksafe NZ - Summary of fatalities 2007-2013

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So even as forestry deaths and injuries have been steadily rising, OSH/Worksafe NZ prosecutions have not kept pace, as the data shows;

Number of Initiated Prosecutions in Forestry

(2009 to 2013)

 

Year* Forestry
2009 4
2010 3
2011 2
2012 4
2013 4
Total 17

Source: WorkSafe NZ (emailed)

*Based on the prosecution initiated date. (No figures readily available for 2008).

A Radio NZ, Nine to Noon  interview on 24 April, which included   forestry-worker widow, Maryanne Butler-Finlay; CTU President, Helen Kelly; and  Worksafe NZ General Manager of Health and Safety Operations, Ona de Rooy yielded some interesting insights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, National was quite capable of changing industrial laws in precisely two days when it came to the so-called “Hobbit Law”. That’s when Warner Bros snapped their corporate fingers.

The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill/Act ( aka “The Hobbit Law”) was introduced, passed, and enacted by National  on 29 October 2010. It was passed in just 48 hours.

There is no reason on Earth why this government could not re-regulate the forestry industry and pass the Health and Safety Reform Bill within a week, if it chose to do so. National simply chooses not to do so, and the lack of prosecutions – despite rising number of deaths – indicates that this government has other interests in mind than workplace safety and the lives of New Zealand workers.

There is big money to be made from forestry. On 13 January 2013, Statistics NZ reported;

In 2012 we exported $4.5 billion of forestry products, compared with $1.9 billion in 1992. They continue to be our third-largest goods export, after dairy and meat.

More specifically germane to the issue of safety in the forestry industry, as Statistics NZ reported;

The value of log exports more than tripled between 1992 and 2012 – from $443 million to $1.6 billion. Since 2008, the value has grown sharply – increasing 22 percent a year on average.

“This rise was due mainly to the volume of log exports tripling. Prices have increased by a smaller 16 percent,” Mr Pike said.

The increased export of logs to China has been a major contributor to the greater value of our log exports. In 1992 we sold only $59 million worth of logs to China. This was up to slightly more than $1 billion by 2012, making China our top market for logs – surpassing both Korea and Japan.

“New Zealand is now the third-largest exporter of logs in the world, after Russia and the United States. In 2012 we supplied 8 percent of the total value of the world’s export logs,” Mr Pike said.

It could be argued that this government is desperate for economic growth of any kind, at any cost.   The growing  export of a raw commodity such as unprocessed, non-value-added, logs is better than no growth at all.

By refusing to regulate the industry – or at least insist on prosecuting malfeasant employers – shows a willingness by this government to tolerate some casualties along the way. Thirtyfive deaths is “collateral damage” in National’s obsessive determination to beat the recession; create economic growth; and balance the books by 2014/15.

There is much at stake if National fails.  The National Party’s (unearned)  reputation for  “sound economic management” would be seriously damaged if the economy failed to ‘fire’ at a time when the global economy  appears to be emerging from the recent global financial crisis recession.

Which is why, it seems, that Simon Bridges is luke-warm at re-regulating the forestry industry or even passing a piece of safety legislation that would probably prevent many more deaths.

So why is Worksafe NZ  not prosecuting employers whose staff are being killed in our forests?

As with the secret instructions issued to labour inspectors not to visit law-breaking Wanaka retailers over Easter – has someone from a Minister’s office quietly whispered into the ears of Worksafe NZ to adopt and maintain a “softly, softly” approach to forestry contractors?

On 22 April, General manager of health and safety operations at Worksafe NZ, Ona De Rooy, said,

“WorkSafe NZ is focused on trying to prevent harm occurring by working with the industry and workers to improve safety and reduce the rate of serious incidents,”

Which is fine. But Worksafe NZ is also tasked with prosecuting employers who break basic safety rules. Once prevention has failed, prosecution must follow – or else where is the sanction for those who willfully break the law?

Has the word been issued from On High, not to apply the law to employers in the timber industry?

The reason would be abundantly simple: prosecuting  would be bad for business.

Out.

It has been said that in matters of business (subsidies, tax-breaks, or special “deals” for Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, China Southern Airlines, SkyCity, charter schools, etc), National adopts a “flexible” and pragmatic approach.

The same, it seems, can be said of their approach to law and order issues. When it comes to enforcing the law, this government can be… flexible.


“I want to make one thing clear. I don’t make excuses for criminal behaviour because I believe every individual is responsible for their actions and must be held accountable for them.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

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References

John Key:  National – Tough on Crime

NZ Herald: National, Act to get tough on violent crime

NZ Herald: Editorial – Car crushing an undignified stunt

National Party: Law and Order – Building a safer New Zealand

Fairfax media: Another welfare shake-up likely, Bennett says

National Party: Making Welfare Work

Victoria University: Courts more lenient on white collar criminals

TV3: Banks accused of failing to declare donation

Fairfax media: PM refuses to sack John Banks

TV3: PM won’t read John Banks police report

NZ Herald: PM reaffirms support for John Banks

Radio NZ:  John Banks resigns as minister

NZ Herald: Crown Law to take over John Banks prosecution

MoBIE/Dept of Labour: Shop opening hours

NZ Herald: Wanaka Easter traders knew inspectors would be absent

Southland Times: Wanaka Easter traders escape prosecution

TV3: PM favours Easter trading law change

Newstalk ZB: Wanaka businesses escape Easter trading laws action

Radio NZ: PM favours Easter trading change

MSN News: Easter trading laws should go: Key

Worksafe NZ: Summary of fatalities 2007-2013

Worksafe NZ: Forestry statistics 2008-2013

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment: Establishment of WorkSafe New Zealand

Radio NZ: High rate of deaths in the forestry industry (audio)

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

Parliament: Health and Safety Reform Bill

Fairfax media: Controversial Hobbit law passes

Statistics NZ: Logs to China drive our forestry export growth

NZCity: CTU takes forestry companies to court

Previous related blogposts

Nats ‘Get Tough on Crime’ – NZ First alleges theft of favourite policy!

The law as a plaything

John Banks – escaping justice

John Banks – escaping justice (Part Rua)

Easter Trading – A “victimless crime”?

Why Garden Centres LOVE public holidays!

Purchasing “justice” on the New Zealand open market

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


 

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National dance to corporate interests

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 April 2014.

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A message from Greenpeace about Simon Bridges

17 April 2014 4 comments

I received this email today, from Greenpeace;

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Hi Frank,

GREENPEACE

PHOTO: Simon Bridges

We’ve called for Simon Bridges to be sacked over his incompetent mishandling of the Energy and Resources portfolio. The final straw was him opening the Victoria Forest Park up for mining without even knowing it existed.

Within days over 15,000 people have joined the call but we’re missing your name!
 
CLICK HERE NOW TO TAKE<br />
ACTION

Last time the Government did something this stupid 50,000 people marched up Queen Street and the decision to mine New Zealand’s best ‘Schedule 4’ conservation land was overturned. But it seems they’ve forgotten how strongly we feel about our wild places.

Under the Minister’s watch the Government has opened vast areas of New Zealand’s oceans to risky deep sea drilling, and now he’s opened our largest forest park to new mining and drilling.

The Minister’s obsession with oil at any cost is robbing New Zealanders of the cleaner smarter economy that could create tens of thousands of jobs and provide real prosperity.

The decisions we make about our energy choices today will determine the prosperity of our children’s future. It’s clear that Bridges is not up to the job. He’s making the wrong decisions on really important stuff and New Zealand deserves better. It’s time for him to go.

Use our quick easy form to send a message to the Prime Minister now

– Nick and the whole crew at Greenpeace

 

 

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I was only too happy to oblige, and added my name to the on-line petition.

I encourage you, reading this, to do likewise. (And pass it on to others!)

Simon Bridges’ incompetance is such that he is too dangerous to remain as a Minister of the Crown.

 

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National dance to corporate interests

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Letter to the Editor: Simon Bridges is a very naughty little boy!

18 February 2014 2 comments

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT:  Letters to the editor
DATE:     Tue, 18 Feb 2014 15:54:16 +1300
TO:      "Sunday News" <editor@sunday-news.co.nz>

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The Editor
The Sunday News
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National's Energy Minister, Simon Bridges, continues to rant
that the  Green Party is somehow planning to print  "magic
money" with their recently announced policy to install solar
panels on 30,000 New Zealand homes.

He said,

"I have news for the Greens - if it's a lower interest rate
than normal, it must involve a government subsidy."

Really?

Is this the same kind of subsidy that National gave away to
home owners to install $1 billion worth of insulation in
cold and damp houses?

Or is it the same kind of subsidy that National handed out
to Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, and other private companies? Was
the $30 million of our taxes that John Key kindly gifted to
the Tiwai Aluminium smelter not a subsidy? Or the cheaper
power which National re-negotiated last year?

Ironically, the Green Party is not suggesting subsidies at
all, but allowing access to cheap loans that the government
already has access to. All loans would be paid back by home
owners - not tax payers.

The same cannot be said for the $30 million gifted to Rio
Tinto or the $160 million-plus to Warner Bros for the "Lord
of the Rings" and another $60 million for "The Hobbit". 

We won't be seeing that money back again any time soon.

-Frank Macskasy
(address and phone number supplied)

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References

TV3: How The Hobbit came to stay in NZ

Beehive.govt.nz: $100m for investing in warmer, healthier homes

Fairfax media: $1b Budget warmup

TV3: Labour backs Greens’ solar panel policy

Youtube: Solar Homes policy launch

Dominion Post: Greens’ solar pledge would ‘push up prices’ – Key

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The sacking of the national govt

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Surveillance laws, Strikebreaking, & Subversive groups

30 June 2013 9 comments

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Big Brother Inc

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“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” – say  those who attempt to justify the  increasing surveillance power of State’s, multi-nationals, and internet “webcorps” like Facebook and Google.

I find that usually these people fall into three categories;

  1. the incredibly naive, who believe that their government loves them. Because Big Brother loves you.
  2. the incredibly fearful, who see terrorists under their beds, in the closet, out on the street behind a tree…
  3. the incredibly partisan – who identify so closely with  their  Party-of-choice, that that will give it wholehearted trust whilst  in office. But will then condemn an opposition Party’s use of State surveillance power once they win government.

The SIS was formed in 1956 – during the height of the Cold War. It was a perilous time in our history, when two super power blocs faced off against each other. Armed with colossal numbers of atomic weaponry, Planet Earth stood on the brink of thermonuclear annihilation. Cockroaches bided their time to inherit.

Twentyone years later, the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) was created in 1977 at the behest of  then Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon. Super power rivalry and  a volatile mix of Middle East tensions created an environment where intelligence-gathering became as vital as  actual military (if not more so).

Prime Ministers of the day promised, hand on heart, that each organisation would be carefully controlled and their activities monitored.

A year earlier, the police Wanganui Computer centre had opened, holding  information for the  New Zealand Police, Land Transport Safety Authority and the justice department,

‘Big Brother is watching’? The New Zealand government’s establishment of the country’s first centralised electronic database through the Wanganui Computer Act raised questions about the state’s ability to gather information on its citizens.

[…]Critics were unconvinced. Civil libertarians likened it to something from George Orwell’s 1984 and mounted numerous protests against the system. The ultimate protest occurred in November 1982, when 22-year-old anarchist Neil Roberts was apparently blown up by his own gelignite bomb as he tried to breach security at the computer centre.

Acknowledgement:  NZ On-Line History – Wanganui Computer legislation passed

By 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end and the “runner up” in the rivalry between superpowers- the Soviet Bloc –  fell apart. The Berlin Wall came down. The Iron Curtain parted. Eastern European nations jumped on the NATO bandwagon. And the  CCCP (USSR) now lives on only in history books and far-flung space probes on the Moon, Mars, Venus, and further out in deep space.

But you wouldn’t think it, as the West – including little old laid-back New Zealand – ratcheted up the power of the State. After the televised terror of 9/11, who could say ‘no’ to more and more surveillance; security; spying; and other governmental powers?

In October 2002, the Clark-led Labour government enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act  2002. The Police website referred to this legislation as,

The TSA establishes a legal framework for the suppression of terrorism. In particular, it is the mechanism by which New Zealand gives effect to the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) mandatory resolutions requiring UN member states to take certain steps to suppress terrorism. An important feature of this framework is the Prime Minister’s power under the TSA to designate individuals or groups as terrorist or associated entities. Designation can be on an “interim” (s 20 TSA) or “final” (s 22 TSA) basis.

Acknowledgement: NZ Police – New Zealand’s designated terrorist individuals and organisations

It should be noted that the definition of who/what is a terrorist entity was left up to individual governments to make,

Secondly, and by contrast, while UNSC Resolution 1373 obliges New Zealand (inter alia) to outlaw the financing of, participation in and recruitment to, terrorist entities, it does not specifically identify those entities. The Resolution effectively leaves it to Member States to identify the entities against which they should act.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Some 21 groups  around the world are currently listed as “terrorist” organisations.  One of those 21 organisations is the Kurdistan Workers Party/ Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (“PKK”), which is seeking a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The PKK is currently in negotiations with the Turkish government. If it is a “terrorist” organisation, then the Turks are negotiating with terrorists.

Perhaps the best known example of  “terrorist-come-statesman”  is Nelson Mandela who served as President of the  African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.  The ANC was banned in 1960 and Mandela served 27 years in prison.

Once upon a time,  Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the ANC as a terrorist organisation,

“The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land‘. ” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987

Now the ANC is the legitimate government of South Africa  and Nelson Mandela is revered as one of the greatest statesmen the 20th Century has ever produced.

Such is the difficulty with branding a group as “terrorist”.  It is a political statement – and that is the problem. One person’s  terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

The government attempted to employ the Terrorism Suppression Act once, and once only –  subsequent to  the Urewera Raid on Monday, 15 October 2007. For the first time, something out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” crossed over from fantasy, into harsh reality,

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Urewera Raids

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Imagine welcoming a Time Traveler from New Zealand 1971 to 2007 with the above scene. Would s/he think that New Zealand had fallen under the harsh rule of a military-fascist dictatorship? That somewhere in the intervening time-period, a coup d’état had overthrown a democratically-elected government, and we were living under a Chilean-style regime?

However, the confusing nature of the law was such that charges were dropped against most of the 18 arrested. Only four proceeded to trial.

Eventually, none  were charged with “terrorism”, the Act iself being described by  Solicitor General Collins as “complex and incoherent”, and “almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances”.

The Act, however, remains in force.

Since then, as if in some bizarre “Space Race” with Labour, the Key-led National Government decided to trump the Terrorism Suppression Act with the Search And Surveillance Act 2012.

As the NZ Herald reported on 1 October, last year,

The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.

It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – New police search and surveillance law in force

The report went on to state,

Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm]  Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.

“Either emergencies, where life might be at risk, or where the destruction of evidence might occur in very serious circumstances,” he said.

“My own interpretation is this is very common sense legislation which provides us reasonable means to carry out our functions.”

He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers.

Acknowledgement: IBID

“He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers“.

Well, Burgess would say that, wouldn’t he?

Does anyone remotely believe that Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess would say the opposite, like this,

“Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess saw the changes as a massive, unwarranted expansion of police powers, which would move New Zealand society further into the realms of a Surveillance Society where State power over-rode the right to privacy.

“We already have sufficient powers to catch burglars, drunk drivers, and drug pushers”, he said.”

Show me a senior police office who would say something like that, and I will show you a Little Green Man  from Mars. (He’s living in my basement and the little bugger has drunk most of my bourbon. Not that it has much effect on him…)

Eight months after the Search & Surveillance Bill was enacted, this bombshell hit the news;

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Illegal spying - 85 Kiwis watched - Fairfax Media - Andrea Vance - Kitteridge Report

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Illegal spying: 85 Kiwis watched

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Despite the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 being fairly clear on the issue, the Bureau still had the mistaken belief that they were somehow entitled to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Either in ignorance, or another of his pathetic lies, John Key maintained this fiction,

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Despite the fact that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is actually quite clear – especially Section 14 which states –

Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

– the myth is perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.

So what does John Key and his National Ministers do? Do they, make the law more explicit that the GCSB “may not authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident”?

No.

Instead National has amended the law – in effect  legalising the illegal “88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003” (source) through a new  Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

National is also enacting the new amendment  – under Urgency – which will give the GCSB the right to now spy on a person  who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Remember – there is no Cold War. That ended 24 years ago.

But you wouldn’t think so.

Instead, Key now makes references to other “threats” to New Zealand,

  • There are people within our country who have links to offshore terrorist groups.” –  John Key, 15 April 2013
  • …covert attempts to acquire New Zealand’s science and technology for programmes related to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
  • This shows New Zealand’s public and private organisations are facing increasing risks of cyber intrusion which could compromise their operations and could result in the theft of valuable intellectual property.” – John Key, 7 May 2013

When asked to be specific about these claims, Key replied,

I cannot tell New Zealanders everything our intelligence agencies are doing, or what the details of their operations are.” (Source)

And as reported, Key was less than forthcoming about other matters relating to the GCSB’s activities,

He refused to say what the support was that the GCSB provided to the Defence Force, police and SIS.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what they do.”

He also refused to say whether information on New Zealanders was passed on to foreign agencies.

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

But he did admit that not one of those 88 New Zealanders spied on by the GCSB has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Not one, as Key admitted,

Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB  .”

If this had happened thirty or fourty  years ago, when New Zealanders were seemingly far more conciousness of the threat of growing Orwellian state power, there would have been mass protests in the streets.

New Zealanders seem to have either fallen into a deep trance, or have grown tired in resisting the remorseless advance of the State.

Is this the country that marched, en masse, to prevent a racist rugby team from touring, in 1981?

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anti tour marchers

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What happened to us?

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2.

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On top of becoming a Surveillance State, National is also winding back the rights of workers to negotiate with employers, and the right to strike,

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Employment reforms 'sinister' - Labour

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

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In a series of  tweet-exchanges, National MP, Jamie-Lee Ross explained his purpose of the Bill,

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jamie lee ross - twitter conversation - 14 june 2013

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Jamie-Lee Ross is simply repeating the line from National’s spin-doctors. His repetition of “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is garbage of course.

You will most likely keep hearing Ross’s refrain, “restore a balance between employers and employees” more and more as the Bill progresses through the House.

The only “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is for employers to get rid of striking workers and replace them with a more compliant, subservient  workforce who will accept lower wages and lesser working conditions.

As CTU President, Helen Kelley explained on The Standard,

1. Notice for strikes.

Currently only those in essential industries must give notice to strike. The new law not only requires notice for all strikes but it also requires that these notices say when the strike will begin and end and there is a requirement for each employee to give notice when a strike will end early. This will prolong strikes and see workers lose wages when they are seeking to return to work. It is intended to create technical grounds for strikes to be ruled illegal.

2. A strike tax

The Bill provides for partial pay deductions for action that falls short of a strike. Firefighters for example, reluctant to take strike action, may take action such as not filling in fire reports, teachers may refuse extra curricula activities or workers may do other creative actions (librarians at universities once refused to process new books rather than shut the library during exam times). The Bill proposes that the employer can unilaterally decide the value of this work and deduct the amount of wages they consider to match this value. Workers can challenge the amount deducted in the Court, but this will take time and the pressure of wage deductions will be used to pressure workers to drop the action. Workers will still be completing their full hours but not getting paid the full amount. The Bill even excludes compliance with the minimum wage for this deduction (it will not matter if the deduction takes the worker below the minimum wage). For state workers that take this limited type of action – the State will benefit – full time work for part time pay – a strike tax.

3. Restrictions on the right to strike

The last change is the most serious one. Currently it is lawful to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Sixty days before the expiry of a collective agreement, the union can initiate bargaining and begin negotiations for a renewal. When this happens the expiring collective remains in force for a full year after expiry. This means workers retain coverage and new workers can gain coverage while renewal bargaining takes place.

There is a duty of good faith on the parties to the bargaining to conclude a collective agreement unless their are genuine reasons on reasonable grounds not to. It is not a genuine reason to simply object on ideological grounds to a collective.

40 days following initiation the parties can strike or lock out in order to put pressure on the other party to change their position in the bargaining – an essential element sometimes of getting a settlement. Without it, workers have no ability to shift an intransigent employer to get a reasonable offer – it is a recognised international right, and you have heard the EMA, Peter Dunne and others defend this right. Even Key says he is not too keen.

Acknowledgement: The Standard – Don’t be fooled by the spin regarding strike laws

Bill Newson, national secretary of the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) summed it up with simple clarity,

“ The latest piece of legislation actually goes further than what applied in the 1990s.

It’s already very difficult, in an era of reasonably high unemployment and very low economic activity, for workers to test their employers for fairer wage outcomes.

It’s an answer to a problem we don’t have. We don’t have a problem with high wages, we don’t have a problem with industrial chaos .”

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

This is a direct reaction to the industrial dispute at the Ports of Auckland which faced off  Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ) against Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). It is a dispute which MUNZ pursued (and won!) through legal channels such as the Employment  Court, and also won in the Court of Public Opinion.

Meanwhile, the employers, POAL, broke employment laws; negotiated in bad faith; leaked sensitive employee information to a foul-mouthed, deranged right-wing blogger; and spread dis-information to the media and public. It was a nasty, vicious, under-handed battle.

The country saw it for what it was, and understood that the POAL and it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, and Board were directly responsible.

Eventually, on 29 March last year, the Employment Court found in favour of the Maritime Union and forced POAL back to the bargaining table.  Make no mistake, this was a major defeat for the Right. A defeat that could not stand – Unions could not be allowed to stand in the way of efforts to make our labourforce more “flexible”.

Having lost the battle in both Courts and with the Public,  rightwing politicians and employers  are now wanting retribution. But more than that, the Right Wing want the law changed so that workers’ right to strike is severely curtailed. In fact, they want the right to strike to become a thing of the past.

No worker will dare strike if they risk losing their jobs to strike-breakers.

It is no coincidence that Jamie-Lee Ross is the author of this repressive legislation. Because Mr Ross was also involved on the fringes in  the ports of Auckland dispute.

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union-biting-the-hand-that-feeds

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz – Union biting the hand that feeds

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So it seems that Jamie-Lee Ross has evidently been tasked with “reforming”  New Zealand’s current labour laws. By “reforming”, I mean to change the law in such a way that a Union could never again challenge – and defeat – an employer.

This is what Mr Ross’s Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill is all about.

I just wish Mr Ross was more upfront with the true intent of his Bill. It’s a strike-breaker. End of story.

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union badge

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And next on the Dark Agenda, curtailment of peoples’ right to protest that might interfere with corporate activity.

I refer, of course, to another National MP – Minister Simon Bridges – who enacted a new law through Parliament – one with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“ (see: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview).

On 3 April, on TVNZ’s Q+A, there was this exchange between Bridges and Jessica Mutch,

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Notice that Bridges has dressed up increased suppression of dissent and protest as a “safety” issue. He refers to “ stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous act” and because of the dangers associated with doing that [protesting]“.

National’s spin doctors have created the meme to be repeated ad nauseum; this is a “safety” issue and not a civil rights issue.

I think most New Zealanders are not taken in by that bit of daft fiction.

It is little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 was a clear warning what the potential was for an environmental catastrophe – one that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.

For Simon Bridges to now threaten future protestors with heavy fines and prison sentences has the hallmarks of a nasty, brutish, authoritarian  government that is afraid of it’s own people.

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4.

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National’s increased surveillance powers could come in very handy for a left wing government. First of all, National’s stooge – Ian Fletcher – will have to be replaced by someone more “sympathetic” to a left-wing government.

Someone with strong left-wing credentials, and who is willing to crack down on right-wing subversive elements in New Zealand.

Subversive right wing groups that threaten the safety of New Zealand citizens – an which can now be more easily surveilled. Groups and individuals such as,

  • ACT
  • National Party
  • New Zealand Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable)
  • Family First
  • NBR
  • Karl Du Fresne
  • Michael Laws
  • Cameron Slater
  • David Farrar
  • Business NZ
  • Crosby Textor

And probably a few others  I’ve forgotten to list.

The new US-based company, Palantir, that has set up office in Wellington and is currently seeking an Embedded Analyst with the NZ  Government, could be useful to monitor and keep track of these subversives. They have a known track record for anti-social, and undermining economic activities in this country.

National also intends to strengthen data-sharing between government departments such as IRD, WINZ, etc (see: Govt considers new ‘big data’ hub). This will be handy to evaluate possible tax evasion for any of these groups.

Of course, if the GCSB/SIS can’t find anything illegal, we can always scrutinise their internet history. Check out what websites they’ve been visiting. Something, anything, dodgy. Preferably involving illegal sex acts. Then leak it to a friendly left-wing blogger to publish. (see: Port admits leaking worker’s details – union)

Yes, indeed, increasing powers and laws that allow a crack-down on dissent could prove very handy for the “far left” Labour-Green government that John Key warns us is coming.

No doubt the Righties will be screaming blue-murder about infringing their privacy. Their identities and comments will be noted. And added to their files. (see:  “The Spies Are Welcome To Mine”: A Fantasy)

There is no more privacy.

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Conclusion

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The rise of the Police surveillance state…

Crushing Union opposition…

Placing heavy restrictions on protest activity…

These are the hallmarks of a government that is exerting firm control  over society and willing to flex it’s “muscle” to have it’s own way. It is a phenomenon that seems to be occurring around the world, with even The Bastion Of Democracy, the USA, now a fully-fledged Surveillance State (but with capitalist trappings).

Through growing  surveillance,  National is watching those “persons of interest” who are likely to interfere with their agenda. Such people can be environmental activists, intellectuals, unionists,  civil rights advocates, left wing bloggers, et al. People who are vigilant on behalf of all New Zealanders – yes, even those on the Right.

Though Ross’s Bill, National will reduce Union power to such a degree that businesses and investors will no longer have to put up with disruption to their incomes and profits. Workers and their representatives will effectively be silenced.

And if anyone disrupts corporate activity such as deep-sea prospecting/drilling, then the State can crack down on protesters with harsh financial penalties and dire  threats of imprisonment.

This is a government, my fellow New Zealanders, that is no longer willing to tolerate dissent. Especially if it threatens their agenda.

Recently, at the Green Party conference, Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon. Notoriously, Muldoon had little patience with those who crossed him or opposed his views.

Norman got it partly right. Actually,  this entire government is Muldoonist in the way it is building up Executive power. Power  with which to  intimidate  opposition. Key is merely the affable, smiling face of that intimidating government. He is the “likeable uncle” behind whom is the full power of the State, and an Executive willing to use it, regardless of consequences or notions of human rights.)

The questions now demanding an answer;

  1. Are National voters comfortable with the accumulation of power by the State?
  2. How will National voters view such extraordinary power being wielded by a left-wing government?
  3. Will an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government committ to reversing these autocratic laws?

There was mass-hysteria when the media got hold of the ridiculous  story that Labour was going to “interfere” with shower heads. Charges of “nanny state” flew like wool in a shearing shed (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state). Of course it was nothing more than a beat-up by National and it’s friendly media.

But it seemed to have stuck in the public consciousness, and Labour became synonymous with the so-called “Nanny State”.

Never mind Nanny. Big Brother is the one to watch out for. He’ll certainly be watching us.

Oh, how we Baby Boomers – who lived through the 1960s and 70s – have seemingly forgotten our distrust of the State.

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neil roberts - we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity

Neil Roberts
1960 – 1982

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 June 2013.

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National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

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Continued from: National’s disdain for the law

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

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Protestors vs The Power of The State…

In the late 1970s, one of the very first protest activities I became involved in was highlighting the imprisonment of Soviet dissidents in the now-defunct USSR. (This was of intense interest to me because of my Eastern European heritage.)

The Soviet Union had approximately ten thousand political prisoners locked up in “Corrective Labour Colonies”, “psychiatric” institutions, and various prisons. (Most of which were located in the Moldavian region and not the archetypal Siberian labour camp that Westerners thought characterised the Soviet political penal system.)

Two of the charges commonly laid against Soviet dissidents were “anti Soviet agitation and propaganda” and “slandering the Soviet system.” Either charge could land a hapless political activist in prison for five, seven, ten, or more years.

The heavy sentences were handed down not just to isolate dissidents from their colleagues and the public – but to serve as a dire warning to anyone else who might ‘buck the system’.

That could never happen here in New Zealand, right?

Right?

Wrong.

It is happening here, and now, in our own country.

After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,  in April 2010, it was  little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast.

East Coasters – and the rest of the country – have  had a clear warning of the potential danger of an environmental catastrophe that might strike the region. One that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.

Public disquiet and anger was such that by November 2011,  Key was prepared to be secretive about his meetings and discussions with oil companies,

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Acknowledgement: TV3 -Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet

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In normal circumstances it would seem unusual that a Prime Minister would keep such a top-level meeting secret. One would think that it should be quite a coup to have  a visiting CEO of such a large corporation visiting New Zealand. Especially where there is Big Money to be made.

Remember Key’s recent big trips to Hollywood? South America? China?

Recently, on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 3 April, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do”.

He said, in part,

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Bridges even admitted that vested interests were involved in the law-change,

JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?

SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.

JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?

SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.

JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?

SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.

Acknowledgement: IBID

The hypocrisy and self-serving nature of the proposal to criminalise protest action was best exemplified when Bridges assured viewers that he “passionately” supported people’s right to protest,

JESSICA Don’t you think a lot of New Zealanders would agree, though, that people have a right to protest? Even if I’m not out there with a placard, you still support people’s right to be able to do it.

SIMON Absolutely, and I think, you know, that goes to the heart of being a democracy. I believe that passionately. My point is there are a huge variety of ways which New Zealanders can protest about anything. I would never want to stop that, but what they can’t do is dangerously, recklessly interfere with other people’s rights to go about their business.

Acknowledgement: IBID

And yet, when Bridges talks about the right to protest, he is adamant that “what they can’t do is dangerously, recklessly interfere with other people’s rights to go about their business”.

I would submit to the Minister that  proposed legislative changes are directed at the wrong party. It is oil companies that should be prevented from undertaking activicties that would  “dangerously, recklessly interfere with other people’s rights to go about their business” should another blowout send millions of barrels of oil washing across our East Coast.

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MV Rena and Deepwater Horizon oil slicks

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Unfortunately I cannot submit anything to the Minister. No one can. (Except oil companies.)

It  is a startling fact: the proposed law change to criminalise sea-borne protests will not go before a Parliamentary Select Committee. It will be passed through Parliament as a Supplementary Order Paper, meaning that it will avoid Select Committee scrutiny or a Public consultation process.

This blogger cannot emphasise how repugnant this proposed law-change is – nor how much it brings to mind the abuse of State power, as happened in the Soviet/Eastern Europe bloc.

This is how National wants to rule; by decree from the Executive.

Replace “Cabinet”  with “Politburo”, and you begin to get an understanding of what I’m describing  here.

It does away with the Parliamentary process; it avoids scrutiny by a Select Committee; and it eliminates any opportunity for the public to be involved by making submissions.

This is bad law-making.

This is anti-democratic.

This is naked authoritarianism.

This has the hallmarks of a government that distrusts and fears it’s own people and views public inclusion with disdain.

Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has all the hallmarks of a quasi-fascist state.

This is a desperate, shabby thing that Simon Bridges and his Party are doing.

It is so wrong that I am in disbelief that it is happening.

Continued at: National’s disdain for taking responsibility
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Addendum – Update

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Legislation cracking down on mining protests passes third reading

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Legislation cracking down on mining protests passes third reading

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In just under two weeks, National has rammed this legislative amendment through the House, with the assistance of two grubby MPs who should not even be in Parliament.

Nek Step: National passes legislation banning all protest activity in public places. Key reassures New Zealanders that protest activity will still be legal in the privacy of peoples’ own homes. (Though for assemblies of three or more people, a Police-SIS-ODESC-GSCB  permit will be required.)

Law abiding New Zealanders will having nothing to fear, Dear Leader Key reasurres us, as long as those New Zealanders do nothing.

Continued at: National’s disdain for our credulity

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

Corporate Welfare under National

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

On the smell of an oily rag

References

NZ Herald: Protester law avoids public submissions and Bill of Rights vetting  (3 April 2013)

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: The Conspirators

The Daily Blog: The Guts and the Authority: Curbing the Powers of the GCSB

The Daily Blog: Worse Than We Thought: Rebecca Kitteridge and the New “Community” of Spooks

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Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges

 

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

 

 

 

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On TVNZ’s Q+A last Sunday, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“,

 

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Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

 

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

 

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In plain english, Bridges was referring to  activists and local people who tried to stop Petrobras and Anadarko from deep-sea prospecting of the East Coast of New Zealand.

 

To refresh the reader’s memory;

 

Anadarko is the same company that, it was revealed in November 2011, Dear Leader  John Key was meeting in secret talks,

 

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Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet

 

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(Funny how Key habitually meets corporate businessmen in secret…)

 

Anadarko is the same company that was involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April  2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men on the platform; injuring 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.

 

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Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

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Petrobras – the target of sea-going protesters in March and April of  2011 (see: Protest flotilla taking on oil giant ) – intercepted and protested against  Petrobras’ prospecting-drilling ships at the Raukumara Basin, off the East Cape of the North Island. The water at the Basin is deeper than those of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig  blew apart.

 

During the protest, on 23 April 2011, the skipper of the ‘San Pietro‘, Elvis Teddy, was arrested (see:  Charge laid after oil protest).

 

With Petrobras’ track record of oil spills elswhere in the world, it was hardly surprising that people on the East Coast were angry that their coastal waters were under threat,

 

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Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

 

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

 

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Six months later, the MV Rena would run aground the Astrolabe Reef, spewing 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel into the east coast waters, and onto beaches (see:  Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’)

 

No wonder many New Zealanders wanted no part of deep sea drilling of our coast. Well, most New Zealanders,

 

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John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill

 

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Meanwhile, on 11 April 2011, Dear Leader Key had a rush of blood to his head and took on quasi-fascist overtones when he threatened to unleash our own military forces on protesters. As Fairfax Media reported,

 

Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out using the Navy or Air Force to ensure multi million dollar oil exploration work off the East Coast continues.

Key today hit out at groups protesting against exploration by oil giant Petrobas by saying the company should be able to carry out work it was legally entitled to do.

 

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – PM hits out at Petrobras exploration protesters

 

Not since the 1951 Waterfront Lockout has a New Zealand government used the military on it’s own people.  This is the sort of man that our Prime Minister is.

 

However, the Nats have become more cunning, and instead  are proposing to  amend the law, criminalising sea-going protests with heavy fines and terms of imprisonment. As Simon Bridges said on TVNZ’s Q+A (31 March 2013),

 

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

 

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

Jessica Mutch  challenged Bridges on this,

 

JESSICA Isn’t this just about putting commercial interests, though, ahead of the rights of New Zealanders? We saw this- the Government doing this with The Hobbit as well.

SIMON No, I don’t think so at all. Look, I think what you’re seeing is a desire to ensure that really reckless, dangerous acts out hundreds of miles from the shore don’t happen. I don’t think it’s on. I don’t think most New Zealanders would think it on. They’d agree with me, I think, that it should be treated as criminal behaviour.

 

And then a glimpse of truth came out,

 

JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?

SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.

JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?

SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.

JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?

SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.

JESSICA Well, that’s interesting because Phil Heatley said, ‘Protest action played no part in the company’s decision to quit New Zealand.’ So what does it even matter?

 

At which point, Jessica Mutch laid it on for Bridges, who could only deny, deny, deny,

 

JESSICA Are you basically trying to send a message to mining companies to say, ‘Hey, look, don’t worry. The Government’s got this. We’ll take care of the protesters. Come on down and have a look around’?

SIMON No, because what’s quite clear, as I’ve already said, is that there are many ways that Kiwis can protest if that’s what they want to do – fill their boots with protest. There are many ways they can do that, but as I say, look, when you’re talking about this dangerous kind of activity where lives could be lost, and I’m not putting that too highly, I think it’s right that we make it criminal behaviour and seen as criminal.

JESSICA You’re clearly looking to help out mining companies…

 

For full transcript, read here: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

Bridges and Key can deny all they like, but the proposed law changes – like the ‘Hobbit Law’, Search and Surveillance Act, etc, are all designed to stifle dissent and increase corporate and State power.

 

Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has the hallmarks of a nasty, petty authoritarian, government.

 

This is the sort of threatening behaviour we have previously seen from National Ministers. Instances such as Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who on 27 September 2011,  warned protesting university students to keep their “heads down”,

 

“My general advice to NZUSA (NZ Union of Students’ Associations) on the cost of living for students is to keep your heads down because actually most people probably think you’re doing OK.”

 

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Minister to students: ‘keep your heads down

 

If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.

 

Bridges may find a whole bunch of New Zealanders willing to stand up to this sort of bully-boy tactics.

 

I suggest he read up on history. Like the 1981 Springbok Tour.

 

Red Squad anyone?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 April 2013.

 

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Previous related blogposts

 

Corporate Welfare under National

 

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

 

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

 

On the smell of an oily rag

 

Additional reading

 

Meet Anadarko, The Oil Company Struggling To Get Off The Hook For The Gulf Spill

 

Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

Brazilian oil explorer Petrobras faces refinery pollution charges

 

Nats plan greater gas and oil exploitation

 

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

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Horizon Polling on Criminalising sea-going protests – Part Rua

17 April 2013 1 comment

Continued from: Horizon Polling on Criminalising sea-going protests

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Horizon Poll - Crown Mineral Bill - sea protests

Note: this header-image above was not partof the Polling Questionnaire in any way, shape, or form. Are you paying attention, Slater? Step awaaaaay from the computer terminal…

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The results for the Horizon Research Poll*, on criminalising sea-protests via the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Amendment Bill;

79% want sea protest law change reviewed or stopped

16 Apr 13

Credit: Element Magazine

79% want sea protest law change reviewed or stopped

Surveys finds New Zealanders uncomfortable with sea protest law change

Overall 79% of New Zealanders, regardless of their political alignment, believe a bill restricting rights to protest at sea should now go back to a Parliamentary Select Committee for more thorough scrutiny and public submissions or be dropped.

The Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Amendment Bill is due to go through its third and final reading at Parliament today (April 16).

The Horizon Research survey of 1,308 New Zealanders aged 18+, between 12:26 pm on 13 April 2013 and 10:30am on 15 April 2013, finds:

  • Overall, 51.4% oppose a proposed new law which would make some currently lawful protest activities against petroleum and minerals activities at sea unlawful
  • Support for the law change is 30.5% while the remainder are neutral or undecided.

The changes were introduced to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Amendment Bill 2012 in Supplementary Order Paper No 205 (SOP No 205). The proposals contained in SOP No. 205 were first outlined in a media release on 31 March 2013 and the Supplementary Order Paper itself was released on 2 April 2013 by Hon Simon Bridges – Minister of Energy and Resources.

Meeting as a Committee of the Whole on April 11, the changes won support by 61 votes to 59 in the Parliament.  The bill is now set down for its final reading on Parliament’s next sitting day, Tuesday April 16, 2013.

The Horizon survey finds

  • 49% of respondents were not aware and 51% were aware of the proposed law changes before doing the survey
  • Overall, 60% think the law change process has been undertaken too quickly, and
  • 52.3% believe the bill should be sent back to the Select Committee.  A majority of those who support parties who voted for the change think that the bill should be sent back to the Select Committee
  • Overall, 79% support either sending the bill back to the Select Committee or withdrawing it entirely.

The National, Act and United Future parties voted for the SOP in the House on April 12, Labour, Green, Maori and Mana parties against.

Q7. Thinking about the proposed law change, which of the following actions would you support?

TOTAL

Supporters of:

Parties who voted for the SOP

Parties who voted against the SOP

The bill should become law immediately

20.1%

37.1%

6.0%

The bill should be sent back to select committee for more thorough scrutiny and public submissions

52.3%

51.6%

52.2%

The bill should be withdrawn and not passed into law

29.7%

13.5%

42.2%

Something else should happen

7.3%

2.0%

7.4%

Support and opposition to the changes proposed to the bill are strongly aligned to support for political parties.  Support comes primarily from those who support the parties that voted for the changes; opposition largely from those who support the parties who voted against the changes.

Overall, however, a majority of respondents, regardless of their political alignment, believe the bill should now go back to the Select Committee for more thorough scrutiny and public submissions. 

There is general acknowledgement that many important environmental protection initiatives arose from protests at sea, including the moratorium on commercial whaling, the bans on dumping nuclear waste at sea and on using of driftnets, New Zealand’s nuclear free status and the end of French atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific.  While that acknowledgement is stronger among the opposition, a majority of supporters of the change feel that way as well.

Opinion on the harshness or otherwise of the change and associated penalties is again politically aligned.

There is also an indication that more discussion and better information about the change may lead to people being less neutral about it.  While support remained a minority overall, respondents were a little more supportive at the end of the survey that at the beginning.  Similarly, more opposed the change at the end of the survey than at the beginning.

A Horizon Research report on the survey can be downloaded here.

 

* Reprinted in full from Horizon email-out to respondents.

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References

NZ Herald: Protester law avoids public submissions and Bill of Rights vetting  (3 April 2013)

Previous related blogpost

Meanwhile, back on Planet Key

To be followed up at The Daily Blog

See upcoming blogpost:  National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

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Horizon Polling on Criminalising sea-going protests

16 April 2013 6 comments

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Horizon Poll - Crown Mineral Bill - sea protests

Note: this header-image above was not partof the Polling Questionnaire in any way, shape, or form. Are you paying attention, Slater? Step awaaaaay from the computer terminal…

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As the proposed amendment to the Crown Minerals Bill – which will criminalise sea-going protests  – nears enactment, Horizon Research this week conducted a brief poll on the issue.

The questions – and this blogger’s answers – were as follows…

Firstly, Horizon Research presented a summary of facts which was reasonably impartial and gave the respondent a fairly clear idea as to the issues,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill

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The first two questions were fairly straight forward, and I gave my answer as “Strongly Opposed” to the proposed law changes.

For me, the amendments to the Crown Minerals bill can be summed up as,

  • procedurally flawed, as National ministers make no allowance for public submissions so that people can air their views,
  • undemocractic in the extreme,
  • draconian in content, and more reminiscent of Putin-era Russia, than a liberal democracy,
  • hastily-enacted, making laws that are  inevitably flawed.

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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Horizon then asked me to explain why I opposed the proposed legislative amendment. (Bad mistake – I’m not shy in expressing my views)

Thankfully there was no word limit in the field. I responded accordingly,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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The next question was fairly complex, with multiple options for answers. I had to pick each option carefully,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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The following question was easy to answer,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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The next question was a follow-up with a request to explain my previous response,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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This one was obvious,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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Also a straight forward question,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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And this question really allowed me to ‘let rip’ with my thoughts on this issue,

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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An incoming Labour-Green government  will have a full legislative agenda, repealing many of  National’s undemocratic laws. As with the “Hobbit Law” (which Labour has pledged to repeal – see: Labour vows to repeal Hobbit Law), there are many pieces of legislation which have no place in a liberal democracy, and should be binned as soon as Labour Ministers are sworn into office.

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Horizon Poll - Crown Minerals Bill - sea protests - simon bridges - criminalising protest

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It would be interesting to learn who the client  (if any) was for this poll.

Continuede at: Horizon Polling on Criminalising sea-going protests – Part Rua

Addendum

In what has been one of the fastest pieces of law-making in New Zealand’s history,  the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament at 4.30pm today (16 April)  by 61 votes to 59. Next step; the Bill will proceed to  the Governor General for assent and become law.

This ain’t democracy, folks. This is government-by-decree.

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References

NZ Herald: Protester law avoids public submissions and Bill of Rights vetting  (3 April 2013)

Previous related blogpost

Meanwhile, back on Planet Key

To be followed up at The Daily Blog

See upcoming blogpost:  National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

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