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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.

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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.

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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.

[…]

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…

[…]

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…

[…]

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…

[…]

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…

[…]

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…

[…]
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.

[…]

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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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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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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