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Mycoplasma bovis, foot and mouth, National Party, and other nasty germs

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Intro

The Mycoplasma bovis crisis confronting New Zealand is a story that will be dissected and commented on for decades to come.

This was not simply a matter of a bacteria infecting cattle. This was a  story on many levels; of flouted rules; a significant inadequacy of the “free market”; critical under-funding by National (no surprises there);  and the best silver-lining that farmers could possibly hope for…

The ‘bovis’ hits the fan

22 July 2017: Mycoplasma bovis was first detected on dairy farms owned by the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group, near Waimate, in Canterbury. In what must rank as the Understatement of the Year, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) investigator, Kelly Buckle, announced;

”At the moment, we’re pretty confident it’s just on those two farms.”

By 1 August, a second dairy farm in South Canterbury had been confirmed with the infection. An ODT report stated;

The ministry was satisfied the containment measures in place were sufficient to control any spread of the disease from the properties involved.

By 29 May this year, the sobering reality of the outbreak turned earlier optimism of containment into a bleak joke;

The cull will involve 152,000 animals over 1-2 years – or an extra 126,000 on top of the planned cull to date.

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The estimated costs of attempting to eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis [sic] are $886 million over 10 years, against an estimated cost of $1.2 billion to manage the disease over the long term and an estimated $1.3 billion in lost production from doing nothing.

At this point the Government believes that 37 farms have infected livestock and 192 farms in total will face stock culling – 142 in the first year.

But high-risk animal movements have been traced to 3000 farms and 858 are under surveillance.

The ease of spread of the micro-organism quickly revealed a fatal flaw in the administration of our bio-security systems.

NAIT – the system that farmers nobbled

As the infection was detected on one farm after another, it soon became apparent that dairy farmers had either ignored, or been slow to comply with the NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) system of tracking farm animals.

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As Alexa Cook reported for Radio NZ in December last year;

Under the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system, all cattle and deer farmers must have stock tagged and registered, and also record and confirm any animals that are bought, sold or moved.

A March 2018 report from Radio NZ found that around half of the country’s farmers were flouting this critical process;

A review of NAIT found only 57 percent of farmers who record their animal movements, do so within the required 48 hours.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor was not happy. He was moved to state the obvious;

“NAIT is an important part of our biosecurity net and it needs improvement.

Mycoplasma bovis is mostly spread through movement of infected cattle from farm to farm. This means cattle traceability between properties is critical to finding all affected animals, and stopping further infection”

O’Connor warned that farmers who ignored NAIT would face fines.

Even Federated Farmers was not impressed with the slackness shown toward NAIT.  Waikato Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairperson, Chris Irons, was highly critical of his fellow farmers;

“Let’s be frank – the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme is not working as well as it should, and the blame lies with farmers.

Yes, NAIT could be easier to use but that’s not an excuse for not keeping animal tracking data up to date.

There are a lot of farmers who say NAIT is waste of time and money. If you have that view then I’m sorry, but I don’t think you care about the farming industry and are probably guilty of not being compliant.

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NAIT currently does a good job of tracking animals that are registered and all their movements recorded on the database. But the system is only as good as the data put into it.

Owners, sellers and third party buyers have to be diligent about recording cattle and deer movements on their NAIT accounts. The system is fit for purpose when the data is up to date, but falls down when it’s incomplete, or not entered at all.

If we have a fast moving outbreak it will be vital to have NAIT working so it’s up to all farmers to ensure they are compliant.”

Chris Irons was correct when he pointed out that “NAIT could be easier to use“. The system is clunky, with stock tags having to be manually scanned and then manually uploaded into the central system.  The manual aspect of it makes the system unwieldy and easy to “set aside to do later” – if at all.

Full electronic automation would cost millions, and would raise the question of who would pay. This blogger understands MPI was never adequately budgeted for full automation.

It is unclear who would pay for NAIT to be upgraded; the Ministry or farmers?

By May this year, the full extent of farmers’ undermining of NAIT became apparent. Prime Minister Ardern did not mince her words;

“There was a system in place, it has failed abysmally and we are now picking up the pieces of that.

We want to make sure that first and foremost we deal with the issue at hand and that is Mycoplasma bovis and trying to pin down its spread and still focus on the possibility of eradication. The second question is: How do we prevent this from ever happening again?”

Biosecurity NZ’s spokesperson, Geoff Gwynn, spelled out the consequences of the failure to carry out NAIT processes;

“It’s a reality of New Zealand’s farming system that large numbers of animals are sold and moved across big distances.

This response is serving to underline just how much movement takes place and it is this, coupled with poor record keeping through NAIT that is making our job very challenging.”

In part, the spread of Mycoplasma bovis has been a crisis of farmers’ own making.

The “she’ll be right, mate” attitude simply will not cut it in an age of rapid international travel. Harmful micro-organisms and other pests can easily cross the planet and humanity’s artificial borders within days or even hours, on the back of our 21st century transport technology.

But perhaps the greatest irony is that whilst farmers had been lax sharing critical information on stock movements as per NAIT requirements – they were far less shy demanding information from MPI on what was being done to  identify infected farms; eradication/containment of the microscopic invader; and compensation paid out post-haste for culled stock animals.

If farmers had complied with NAIT and provided stock transfer data in a timely and precise fashion, they might not now be in a position where they were braying for information from those same Ministry officials.

The dreaded disease whose name we dare to speak

Waikato Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairperson, Chris Irons, issued this stark warning to his fellow farmers;

“There’s too many farmers who are just ‘oh nah, just don’t want to do it’, but at the end of the day it’s got to be done because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to track any diseases.

If we get something faster than m.bovis – like foot and mouth or something – we’ve got to have a reliable system. At the moment the system is reliant on farmers doing their bit and having their records up to date.”

Like foot and mouth or something“?!

Mycoplasma bovis is a nasty bug. There is little doubt in that. According to MPI, it is present in most other countries around the world. Only until last year, New Zealand was free of the disease. As MPI graphically described, it has multiple symptoms;

Major syndromes seen in other countries with Mycoplasma bovis include atypical mastitis in cows (both dry and in milk) – (the chance of this disease likely increases with increasing herd size), arthritis in cows and calves, atypical, difficult-to-treat pneumonia in calves, middle ear infection (otitis media) in calves, severe pneumonia of adult cows (usually rare), and abortion. All conditions are difficult to treat once the animal becomes sick.

Yet, Mycoplasma bovis is almost the agrarian version of the common cold when compared to a disease that every animal farmer must live in mortal fear of: foot and mouth (Aphthae epizooticae).

In a 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak in Great Britain, farms were quarantined and isolated behind Police barriers;

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Movement was curtailed;

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Millions of stock animals were culled and incinerated on massive pyres;

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Each of those cases meant a farm having all of its livestock killed and burned. By the time the last case was confirmed at Whygill Head Farm in Appleby, Cumbria, on 30 September 2001, more than six million sheep, cattle and pigs had been slaughtered.

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The Guardian reported just some of the effects on British farmers and businesspeople;

The list of victims is long. At the head of it should be the nearly 3m animals slaughtered and burned, along with the 68,000 cows, sheep and pigs set to follow them on to the funeral pyres. Next on the list would be the clutch of farmers who, despite £125m already pledged in compensation, will be driven out of business by an epidemic that swept through their land as devastating as a tornado. After them, the hoteliers and restaurateurs who saw their livelihoods dry up as the world’s travellers declared Britain a medievally benighted no-go area.

The financial cost was horrendous; £3 billion to the public sector and  £5 billion to the private sector.

Tourism income  lost/displaced between £2.7 and £3.2 billion. It took nine months to bring foot-and-mouth under control and stop the spread.

Farmers who were not infected with foot and mouth, but still lost income through massive restrictions to livestock movement, were not compensated.

The invisible psychological effects were perhaps the worst;

The disease epidemic was a human tragedy, not just an animal one. Respondents’ reports showed that life after the foot and mouth disease epidemic was accompanied by distress, feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster, loss of trust in authority and systems of control, and the undermining of the value of local knowledge. Distress was experienced across diverse groups well beyond the farming community. Many of these effects continued to feature in the diaries throughout the 18 month period.

[…] The use of a rural citizens’ panel allowed data capture from a wide spectrum of the rural population and showed that a greater number of workers and residents had traumatic experiences than has previously been reported.

Despite the effects of Mycoplasma bovis, New Zealand’s meat and dairy exports are largely unimpeded.

That will not be the case if – or more likely – when foot-and-mouth reaches our shores. With tourism numbers at 3.3 million in 2015/16 and expected to reach 4.9 million visitors by 2023, it is only a matter of time when one individual carries the dreaded foot and mouth micro-organism into our country.

If 100% of New Zealand farmers are not 100% compliant with NAIT in the coming years, the nightmarish havoc wrought by a foot and mouth outbreak will be unlike anything Mycoplasma bovis has wrought.

It is a tough lesson, but the farming sector should be thankful of Mycoplasma bovis (and the person who inadvertently imported it). Whatever supernatural deities there might be have delivered a clear warning to us all.

Observe the rules. Follow the NAIT system.

No exceptions.

Or face worse consequences.

National, the Free Market and minimal-government

Remember this guy?

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He must be feeling a bit of a right ‘wally’ right now.

As ‘Advantage‘ recently wrote for The Standard;

Remember those Morrinsville farmers who protested against our ‘communist’ Prime Minister? Those are the guys we are feeding our taxpayer dollars towards right now

A  Herald report backed up the anonymous blogger’s observation;

The Government will cover 68 per cent costs and the dairy and beef industry bodies the remainder.

The estimated costs of attempting to eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis [sic] are $886 million over 10 years, against an estimated cost of $1.2 billion to manage the disease over the long term and an estimated $1.3 billion in lost production from doing nothing.

Perhaps this  US cartoon best shows how those with a distrust of “big government” (or any government) in their lives suddenly have a remarkable Road-to-Damascus conversion when faced with a crisis beyond their abilities to manage;

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Left to the ‘tender mercies’ of a small government, an unfettered free market, and minimal state involvement, how much could farmers expect as compensation for a disease outbreak and culling of their stocks?

Easy answer: nil. As in nothing.

They would be expected to buy their own insurance. User pays would be the rule.

Whether a farmer with an infectious disease would notify authorities (whether such “authorities” would even exist in a minimalist government is a moot point) without compensation, or any other personal benefit, would be an interesting question.

In a purist free market where everyone looks out for him/herself, what would be the incentive to act for the “greater good” of other people?

Fortunately we still have a State and the remnants of collective responsibility when faced with overwhelming circumstances.

Whether a person is a solo mother living in a State house or a farmer with a ten million dollar investment – the State exists to protect it’s citizens when faced with crisis beyond their coping abilities.

The  next time farmers read a media story of a State house tenant unjustly turfed out of their home, or a welfare recipient who has been abused by WINZ until driven to suicide – they should pause for a moment. Perhaps their sympathies may now  be just a little closer aligned with those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap.

National – the party of preference for most farmers – has said on multiple occasions that state assistance should be “targeted“; that tax-payers dollars should only go to those who are most-in-need (even though National then demonises those very same people-in-most-need).

In a free-market, small-government world, a minimal amount of state assistance might be channeled to the poorest of the poor. Just a barely sufficient amount to stave off starvation and prevent embarrassing piles of corpses from inconveniently cluttering up the streets. But state assistance to compensate farmers?

Forget it.

At election time, farmers should think carefully before ticking the Party box. They should ask themselves;

How small do they really want government to get?

In the meantime, our farming friend above should consider changing the text for his next sign;

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A little appreciation goes a long way.

Vote Biosecurity

As the twin effects of the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis and two tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 impacted on government tax revenue, National was forced to break one of its election promises. It cut back on spending and public services.

It soon became apparent that no part of the State sector would be untouched by National’s then-Finance Minister, Bill English, as Richard Wagstaff of the PSA explained;

The Public Service Association is concerned about the significant risks involved in cutting jobs at MAF Biosecurity, whose staff work on our borders protecting New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar agriculture sector from pests and diseases.

MAF Biosecurity has today announced that’s its disestablishing around 60 jobs by cutting 30 filled positions and disestablishing 30 vacant positions. MAF Biosecurity says the job cuts are in response to falling trade and passenger volumes.

“But the government is also responsible for these job losses as it cut the baseline funding for MAF Biosecurity by $1.9 million in the Budget delivered in May,” says PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“Our concern is that the New Zealand’s economy depends on our farming and horticulture industries that could be decimated if diseases like foot and mouth and fruit fly got into the country.”

“MAF Biosecurity staff work to prevent these diseases and pests from crossing our borders so it’s vital that these job cuts don’t weaken our defences in this area,” says Richard Wagstaff.

Richard Wagstaff’s stark warning became a grim reality as fruit flies, moths, the psa virus, and then Mycoplasma bovis crossed our weakened border controls.

It is difficult to make direct comparisons with  some of the data from National’s Budgets. Categories were changed from the 2009 Budget to the 2010 Budget onward. Much of the budgetary allocations were “buried” with Vote Primary Industries.

However, it is clear that two overall categories can be compared;

  • Border Clearance Services and Border Biosecurity Monitoring and Clearance
  • The overall total of budgetary allocations to biosecurity which from 2012 onward were obtained from the Summaries of each document.

The figures appear to show a steady decline in biosecurity funding from 2008 (Labour’s Michael Cullen’s last budget) to 2014, of thirteen million dollars. This is not accounting for inflation, which would mean an even greater decline in funding levels.

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Note A: From Budget 2012, Vote Biosecurity was merged with Vote Agriculture & Forestry, and Vote Fisheries into the Vote Primary Industries.
Note B: Linked references to Budget documents listed below..
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Corresponding international visitor arrivals continued rising (with only a slight drop in 2009, post-GFC).

Annual imports fell post-2008,but regained steadily after 2011. By 2013, imports had all but returned to 2008 levels (not taking inflation into account).

What is clear is that biosecurity does not appear to have been adequately funded. National’s cost-cutting (until 2013 and 2014) must have impacted on our ability to monitor and prevent pest incursions.

This would appear to coincide with the appearance of several destructive pests recently;

Whatever “savings” National made by cutting back on biosecurity were, by definition, false economies. Once again, cuts to an essential state sector service inevitably created grave consequences.

This time for our farming sector.

The next time National promises tax cuts at election time and to make “efficiencies” to “do more with less“, this is a lesson that the farming sector should remember with some bitterness.

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Those so-called “cost-savings” didn’t come cheap. A fact farmers should bear in mind when it comes time to cull herds exposed/infected with Mycoplasma bovis.

 

Acknowledgement: thank you to a certain scientist who gave her time to proof-read my article and offer constructive criticism.

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References

Wikipedia: Mycoplasma bovis

NZ Herald:  Confidence mycoplasma bovis outbreak contained

ODT: Another meeting as second farm infected

NZ Herald: MPI will face ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude on M. Bovis, farmer says

Radio NZ: Incomplete farm records slow tracking of cattle disease spread

Radio NZ: Farmers face checkpoints in effort to stop cattle disease

Fairfax media: NAIT responsibility – the buck stops with farmers

Radio NZ: M Bovis spread – Tracking system has ‘failed abysmally’ – PM

NewstalkZB: Farmer slams Govt over bovis communication

MPI: Two-page summary of Mycoplasma bovis

Wikipedia: 2001 United Kingdom foot-and-mouth outbreak

The Guardian: The news from Ground Zero – foot and mouth is winning

BBC: When foot-and-mouth disease stopped the UK in its tracks

The Guardian: A catalogue of failures that discredits the whole system

National Audit Office: The 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease

NCBI: Economic costs of the foot and mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001

NCBI: Psychosocial effects of the 2001 UK foot and mouth disease epidemic in a rural population: qualitative diary based study

MoBIE: New Zealand Tourism Forecasts 2017-2023

Radio NZ: Man still repaying debt from unnecessary HNZ meth eviction

Fairfax media: Aggressive prosecution focus at MSD preceded woman’s death, inquest told

National Party: Low income earners to subsidise homes for wealthy

National: Achievements – Social investment

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

Mediaworks/Newshub: Labour – Key promised no job cuts, asset sales in 2008 speech

Fairfax media:  Jobs expected to go in state sector cuts

Scoop media: Risks involved in cutting MAF Biosecurity jobs

NZ Herald: New Zealand fruit fly free after successful operation

MPI: Red clover casebearer moth

Mediaworks/Newshub: Crown opens case in kiwifruit claim over Psa virus outbreak

NZ Treasury: Budget 2008Vote Biosecurity

NZ Treasury: Budget 2009Vote Biosecurity

NZ Treasury: Budget 2010Vote Biosecurity

NZ Treasury: Budget 2011Vote Biosecurity

NZ Treasury: Budget 2012Vote Primary Industries (inclu Biosecurity)

NZ Treasury: Budget 2013Vote Primary Industries (inclu Biosecurity)

NZ Treasury: Budget 2014Vote Primary Industries (inclu Biosecurity)

NZ Treasury: Budget 2015Vote Primary Industries (inclu Biosecurity)

NZ Treasury: Budget 2016Vote Primary Industries (inclu Biosecurity)

NZ Treasury: Budget 2017Vote Primary Industries (inclu Biosecurity)

NZ Treasury: Budget 2018Vote Primary Industries (inclu Vote Biosecurity)

NZ Treasury:  Budget 2012 – Introduction – Estimates of Appropriations 2012/13

Statistics NZ: Exports and imports hit new highs in 2017

Statistics NZ: International visitor arrivals to New Zealand – 2008 – 2018 (alt. link)

NZ Herald: Kiwifruit disease Psa explained

MPI: Pea weevil

MPI: Eucalyptus variegated beetle

Fairfax media: Velvetleaf, one of world’s worst weeds, confirmed on three Waikato farms

MPI: No further Tau flies found and restrictions now lifted

MPI: Culex sitiens mosquito

Radio NZ: English hints at further tax cuts

NZ Herald: Key pledges state service shake-up

Scoop media: Speech – John Key – Better Public Services

Additional

Wikipedia: Biosecurity in New Zealand

MPI: Keeping watch

Radio NZ: Failings in NZ’s stock tracking system (audio)

Radio NZ: Cattle and oysters – a catalogue of issues: Damien O’Connor (audio)

Radio NZ: One in five farmers ignoring safety regs – WorkSafe

Other Blogs

The Standard: It’s Time for a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Dairy Farming

Previous related blogposts

Bugs and balls-ups!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 June 2018.

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 9 August 2013

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 9 August 2013 –

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– Brent Edwards –

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

This week the Government has been battling the fall-out from the Fonterra contamination scare.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 2 August 2013 ( 17′ 22″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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The National Party, common sense, and sausage sizzles

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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

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

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

National’s modus operandi,

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

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

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

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

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

One thing, though, has escaped me utterly.

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

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

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

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

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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

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

National took “appropriate action”,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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

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

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

So much for “savings” of $20 million.

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

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

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

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

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

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

See: Kiwis are tolerating moderate austerity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The ‘mother of all budgets’

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking Mother of all budgets

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

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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

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

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Source

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

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

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

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

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

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Additional

Dominion Post: Public service cuts get deeper

Bloomberg:  Hollande Vows to Fight Austerity After Beating Sarkozy

References

Te Ara: Story – Business failures and corporate fraud

Te Ara: Story – National Party

Trading Economics: New Zealand

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Ministerial Waste & Hypocrisy

7 April 2012 3 comments

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At a time when National has sacked 2,500 state sector workers; plans to make hundreds more redundant; reducing state housing services; cut early childhood education; and other drastic cuts to social services – it is somewhat galling to have a Minister wasting taxpayers’ money,

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Ms Parata  said she “had eight back-to-back meetings and it was decided hiring a car would be more cost-effective than a taxi”.

Really?

We actually have a Consulate- General in Sydney, located at 55 Hunter St, in the heart of the city,

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Why did Ms Parata not avail herself on a staffer from the Consulate’s office? No doubt the office has it’s own vehicles to use as part of their official duties – why did Ms Parata not access one of those?

She could have saved taxpayers $1,400 and still have met her appointments.

National expects everyone else to tighten their belts; make cutbacks and sacrifices – even lose their jobs. But that doesn’t seem to stop highly paid Ministers from throwing money around like it grows on trees.

Or did National sack every man, woman, and their dog from the Consulate, as part of their massive MFAT cuts?

Tory governments: reknowned for their philosophy of Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

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Additional

Budget deficit keeps getting worse

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Another day in a lie of the National Party

4 April 2012 1 comment

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Key & English: Lying Bastards

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= That Was Then =

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Liar, liar! Pants on fire!

"National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing." - http://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Tax_Policy_Paper.pdf

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Still Lying

"This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services." - http://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Tax_Policy_Paper.pdf

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"If National is elected to lead the next government, I personally guarantee that we will...
...Ensure government spending is focused on frontline services such as health and education by capping the number of bureacrats and putting real discipline around government spending." - http://img.scoop.co.nz/stories/images/0810/9610985fe02ddcb32279.jpeg

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= This Was Before=

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Of course, the “cap” soon turned into cuts. Two thousand five hundred cuts.

It’s not very  fashionable to say it these days – but these were 2,500 hard working, dedicated, state sector workers who made sure that the wheels of government moved efficiently. They made sure police got their cars, radios, and tasers. They made sure doctors got their hi-tech machines-that-went-*ping*  and medicines.  They made sure schools were resourced (as much as penny-pinching politicians might permit).

And all the other jobs that are quietly done, out of sight, and which make our society function. John Key said pretty much the same thing in a speech, in March 2008.

Key was also adamant that National would not cut front-line staff, and instead would re-direct resources to where it was needed,

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Still telling porkies

"We are not going to reduce the number of front-line staff. Let me make this absolutely clear – under National the numbers of doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, police and other front-line staff will grow.
In addition, we are not going to radically reorganise the structure of the state sector. Our focus will be on delivering services. Just as Labour has done, we will take opportunities to make changes to some agencies as part of the usual business of government. However, there will be no wholesale reorganisation or restructuring across the state sector." - http://www.johnkey.co.nz/index.php?/archives/335-SPEECH-Focusing-on-the-Front-Line.html

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Both Key and English repeated the mantra; “no cuts to frontline staff, no cuts to frontline staff, no cuts to frontline staff, no cuts to frontline staff...”

The public came to believe Dear Leader and Little Leader.

Until the day of reckoning, and the lie was exposed…

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= This Was Before=

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The first lie was that there would be a cap on the state sector.

The second lie was that there would be not cuts.

The third lie was that cuts would be made on the “backroom bureacracy”  (whatever that is), and not on the front line.

All  lies.

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Full Story

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Does anyone know if, or when  John Key, Bill English, aren’t telling lies?

This blogger has been politically involved since his late teens.  I have lived through the Muldoon regime; the Lange/Douglas “reforms”; the cock-ups of the Bolger/Richardson/Birch/Shipley circus; and the safer, more steady stewardship of Clark and Cullen.

I can tell the reader one thing: of all the governments we have had since the 1970s, the two most mendacious; dishonest; deceptive and manipulative ones have been;

*drumrolllllll*
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May we have the envelope please.

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And the winners are…

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#1. Key & English
#2. Lange & Douglas

No need to clap.

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Even Bolger – to his credit – kept to his word on most of his policies and pledges.

To my fellow New Zealanders – even to you folk who naively voted for National last November – I offer you this prediction; by the time the next election rolls around, you will be climbing over each other to cast your ballots, and to vote to throw out this shabby, dishonest, visionless ratbag regime.

You will have had a gutsful of Key’s empty promises and National’s shady dealings with casinos and other corporate interests.

You will have had enough of the relentless bad news; the growing inequality; the lack of jobs and spreading poverty; and losing more of your friends and family to Australia.

You may not even be here in New Zealand by the next election.

But I hope you still vote. We will need it.

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= fs =

From 2011 back to 1991?

1 December 2011 23 comments

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

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Full Story

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

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Source

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

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

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

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

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

Things are not looking terribly flash,

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, the incoming government should be considering the following;

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

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

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

Because either way, we will pay.

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Additional

Wellington hit with leap in mortgagee sales

Wellington furniture company in liquidation

Fourth National Government of New Zealand

The 1991 Budget and Tertiary Education: Promises, Promises…

Reserve Bank – Employment-Unemployment

Dept of Corrections: Prison sentenced snapshot trend since 1980

Annual figures for Bankruptcies and Liquidations since 1988

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

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