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Simon Bridges: the 15 March Christchurch massacre and winning at any cost

21 September 2019 Leave a comment

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Just when you thought Simon Bridges couldn’t sink any lower – he has.

After the March 15th  Christchurch terror attack, the (current) Leader of the National Party issued strong committments to support urgently needed gun law reform;

“We will be ready and prepared to be constructive and to look at anything here because we do need to see some change.”

“Change is needed, I understand that, and the National Party will make sure it’s a constructive party in all of this. I am no expert in this. There may be loopholes that can be fixed quite readily and quickly.

Yes, that’s probably the right way to go [to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons] but let’s hear from the government. It is now for the government and the prime minister, whose roles I respect in this, to put forward those proposals. We are up for change.”

“Everything has changed. Everything has changed. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to you we shouldn’t have gun control change. I don’t myself know what would have changed this… we had someone who had IEDs in their car.”

National has been clear since this devastating attack that we support changes to our regime and that we will work constructively with the Government. We agree that the public doesn’t need access to military style semi-automatic weapons. National supports them being banned along with assault rifles. We also support the Government’s proposals to limit the access to other high powered semi-automatic weapons and ammunition.”

It’s imperative in the national interest to keep New Zealanders safe. The attacks on Friday changed New Zealand, the intention of the gun law changes is excellent and I understand the need for urgency. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of New Zealanders and fighting extremism in all forms.

National will work constructively with the Government to ensure we get this right. We support the prime minister and I think most of our rural communities will understand.”

The above statements from Mr Bridges were also posted on the National Party website. So there is simply no room for error and claims of being misquoted.

Writing on The Standard, L Prent acknowledged Simon Bridges’ constructive response to the massacre and need for thorough, wide-ranging gun-reform laws;

“Now I know that most people are going to be surprised that I finally have a reason to laud Simon Bridges (I know I am). But I just have to on this occasion. Both he and the public responses of National to the announcements yesterday were excellent.

They’re fully supporting the thrust of the proposed changes going forward into the future. As National seem to have made a career in politics of being stupid over my lifetime, I’m sure it won’t last. But I’m going to enjoy it while it does.

And on Twitter, this blogger posted a dire warning/prediction;

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Alas, neither L Prent nor I were to be disappointed.

Six months later, Simon Bridge is back tracking.

On 28 August, Simon Bridges announced he would not be supporting a second trance of gun reform laws.

“No, I’m not making this political, it’s not about the Police Association. It’s about a situation where National supported the first law, which was the right thing to do – but the buyback scheme, however, is a fiasco.

We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.

Just to be clear, the buy-back scheme has thus far netted around 20,000 banned weapons from 20 June this year. The scheme will be on-going until 20 December.

Whether the scheme will retrieve every single banned weapon and parts is unknown: successive governments have failed to implement registration of individual firearms. Which is bizarre, considering we, as a society, consider it normal to register cars, dogs, real estate agents, etc.

Since the initial banning of semi-automatic weapons and associated parts, and buy-back scheme (which Australia successfully carried out following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre by a deranged gunman), a second tranche of gun reform was introduced;

  • Establishing a firearms register
  • Make owning a gun a “privilege” that comes with obligations
  • Tighten the rules to obtain and keep a gun licence
  • Tighten the rules for gun dealers to get and keep a licence
  • Require licences to be renewed every five years
  • Not allow visitors to purchase guns in New Zealand
  • Introduce a new warning system for police so they can intervene if they have concerns about a licence holder’s behaviour
  • Introduce a licencing system for shooting clubs and ranges
  • Set up an expert group to advise the police on firearms
  • Introduce new advertising standards around guns
  • Require licences to buy magazines, parts and ammunition
  • Increase penalties and introduce new offences

The rules seem so straight-forward that it beggars belief they were not already in place. Bear in mind, these are lethal, high-powered weapons we are talking about – not registration of ‘Mr Bigglesworth‘, the family pet chihuahua.

By the end of August, Simon Bridges began walking-back of every statement he made following March 15th. His spin-doctor-crafted “talking points” glaringly obvious;

“We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.

“In short, the Government is going after the good guys and not the bad guys [with these rules].

“There’s no politics. It’s simply a question of a next series of laws that seem to be aimed at good, law abiding people rather than criminals, the gangs and extremists.

It is difficult to understand how the proposed new restrictions would “not [be] aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists“. Just to remind everyone that the (alleged) Christchurch shooter was also a licenced, “good, law abiding person” – right up until he pulled the trigger at his first victim. Then he wasn’t.

In fact, the new laws should make it harder for  “gangs, the crims and the extremists” to possess firearms. Because – according to Police – most firearms ending up in the hands of “gangs, the crims and the extremists” – come from “good, law abiding people” with gun licences.

According to a NZ Herald report in 2016, by Phil Taylor, licenced gun dealers were a prime source of guns for “gangs, the crims and the extremists”;

“Most of the illegal guns we come across are from burglaries or from rogue licensed owners,” said the drug enforcement source.

Rogues such as Peter James Edwards. Edwards, who had a class A licence that enabled him to buy rifles and shotguns in a sporting configuration, made a business out of buying guns and pimping them for criminals by cutting down the barrel or stock and adding pistol grips and silencers.

Pistol-size firearms are prized by criminals because they are easily carried and concealed.

Over 18 months, Edwards, described in court as unemployed, bought 74 firearms including 69 from Gun City’s Auckland and Christchurch stores, plus more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition, a large number of parts including pump-action pistol grips, and pistol grips.

He pleaded guilty to supplying firearms to unlicensed people, supplying a pistol and supplying methamphetamine. Edwards sold methamphetamine to his daughter, starting on her 19th birthday.

He was sentenced in 2014 to a total of five years and 10 months in prison. It was revealed in court that he had 53 previous convictions in Western Australia. He had failed to declare any previous convictions on his gun licence application.

Edwards claimed not to know the names of anyone he sold to, and would not help recover 64 firearms that were missing and believed to be in the hands of Head Hunters gang members and associates.

In another example;

Another who didn’t want to help police trace the firearms he sold to criminals was John Mabey.

“He probably has a greater fear of those associated with the guns than anything we can bring to bear,” Inspector Greg Nicholls told the Herald after Mabey was sent to jail in 2009.

Mabey gained a gun licence at a young age and later added a “collectors’ endorsement” that entitled him to have restricted weapons such as pistols and submachine guns and military-style semi-automatics.

He fell into debt and decided to sell his collection on the black market. When notified that police planned to check his collection, he faked a burglary in which he claimed his entire collection of restricted firearms had been stolen. He maintained the fiction for two years before admitting he had faked the burglary.

Only 11 of 121 of Mabey’s restricted guns have been recovered. Glock and Beretta pistols were found in the possession of a drug maker and seller who had fired at police officers during a routine traffic stop.

A Browning pistol was found in the possession of a methamphetamine cook. A Luger pistol was found in the home of a Mongrel Mob member. Methamphetamine was involved again.

Because individual firearms are not registered, the number of transactions involving purchase and sales is not recorded. As the same police source pointed out;

“There is no way of identifying who is buying too many guns. There might be an innocent explanation for why someone buys firearms five times a year, but when someone buys 69 guns in a short space of time … hang on, that’s not right.”

In 2012, in a Police report – the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper – found  that “325 illegal firearms were seized in police raids in the year to June. While that is the lowest haul in the past five years, it is still an alarming number and, along with other aspects of the present firearms regime, a cause for continuing concern. Most of the guns seized by the police were stolen in residential burglaries or from collectors by organised criminals.

Four years later, in 2016, information relating to the underground business of illegal firearms sales was sought by the the Law and Order Select Committee when Judith Collins was Police Minister. Simon Bridges was a colleague of Ms Collins in the same government. They did nothing to tighten gun control laws. Three years later, fiftyone people were shot dead in a Christchurch mosque and scores more injured.

The same 2012 Herald editorial, which revealed the findings of the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper had warned presciently;

Parliament needs to act before the laxity of current regulations is underlined again by a tragedy involving unlicensed guns.

The (alleged) terrorist-killer was a legally licenced gun owner. His weapons – unregistered.

If Simon Bridges is now playing politics to curry favour with gun owners and conservative voters, it is a deadly ‘game’ he is indulging in. Fiftyone people paid the ultimate price because this country – and successive governments – was to naive and blase to realise the deadly nature of poorly regulated gun ownership.

Mr Bridges has plumbed new depths of dirty politics. To return to partisan politics on an issue which – literally – is a matter of life and death is troubling.

It is obvious that he has waited until the moment of the tragedy subsided. Once the screams and cries of frightened innocent men, women, and children no longer reverated through our collective consciousness; once the searing white-hot grief had dimmed; once the headlines moved on; did Mr Bridges think it was safe to conduct political business-as-usual?

If so, it demonstrates an almost sociopathic callousness that would be beyond most of us.

His win-at-any-expense strategy for next years’ election shows the true, deeply-flawed character of the man. It raises the question; what won’t he do to win votes?

And for all New Zealanders, especially National supporters, the question becomes; is this the kind of person we should trust to lead us?

Postscript:

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A recent National Party leaflet delivered to households;

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In the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll, eligible New Zealand voters were asked what they thought of the Government’s moves [on gun reform].

Sixty-one per cent thought the changes were about right, 19% thought it did not go far enough and 14% thought it went too far.

Simon Bridges should listen more carefully.

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References

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expected to announce gun law changes

Radio NZ: Christchurch terror attacks – National Party leader Simon Bridges says gun control laws need changing

Mediaworks/Newshub: Christchurch mosque terror attack – National changes tune on gun control

Newsroom: Military style semi-automatic guns banned

Fairfax/Stuff media: National supports gun law changes in wake of Christchurch mosque shootings

National: National supports firearms reform

Twitter: F. Macskasy – Christchurch shooting – Simon Bridges

The Standard: Adequate gun control and (almost) complete party support.

Radio NZ: Police Association says National playing politics with gun laws

Fairfax/Stuff media:

Fairfax/Stuff media: Scepticism and enthusiasm for new gun laws as buy-back figures approach 20,000

NZ Police: Information on prohibited firearms

Wikipedia: Port Arthur massacre (Australia)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Second tranche of gun law changes – Firearms register, tighter licencing

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges reveals National is unlikely to support second tranche of gun law reforms

Mediaworks/Newshub: Simon Bridges says gun laws soft on ‘crims, gangs and extremists’

NZ Herald: The Big Read – How are criminals getting their guns?

NZ Herald: Editorial – Unregistered guns invite a tragedy

Parliament: How do criminals get illegal guns?

TVNZ: New poll – 61% of New Zealanders back gun ban in wake of Christchurch atrocity

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road: What Happened Here?

The Daily Blog: Trying to understand National’s position on Gun reform is like trying to understand Trump’s position on nuking hurricanes

The Daily Blog: Dear Gun owners of NZ – you don’t like the buy back plan? We are honestly more than happy for you to be arrested and the guns seized from you

The Daily Blog: Gun nuts should be under surveillance now

The Daily Blog: Jacinda goes beyond ‘thoughts & prayers’ and will change gun laws

The Daily Blog: If we can ban single use plastic bags and fireworks – why the Christ can’t we ban machine guns for civilian use?

The Daily Blog: Bryan Bruce – 100% support for gun law reform call by The Prime Minister

The Standard: Adequate gun control and (almost) complete party support.

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on why the government shouldn’t run the Christchurch massacre inquiry

Previous related blogposts

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

The Christchurch Attack: is the stage is set for a continuing domino of death?

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13 November 1990

That was then…

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15 March 2019

This is now…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 September2019.

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The Many Mendacities of Mr Bridges – National’s fair-weather “commitment” to a Climate Change Commission

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Current National Party Leader, Simon Bridges has been making ‘noises’ about his Party’s new-found revelation that climate change is a major environmental issue

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 24 June 2018
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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National leader Simon Bridges recently announced that his Party would “sign up” to a Climate Change Commission. However, his so-called commitment contained so many caveats as to make it meaningless.

On TVNZ’s Q+A, he said;

“But he can’t even say what exactly that means. My point to you, let me give it straight on, my point to you really is this – there is a difference in politics, there still is today. And it is around, on our side, us thinking we need to be practical, have sensible environmental solutions. We don’t want to see the disruptive damage to the economy quickly.

[…]

And we don’t want to see real costs imposed on hard-working Kiwi households overnight.”

A day later on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, Bridges repeated the same carefully-rehearsed speech;

“You want to be considering not only the environmental impacts but the economic impacts.”

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We’re going to be practical, sensible, and solutions-oriented. We’re not going to veer to the extremes that mean really dramatic effects on our economy and huge costs on household, that disrupt quite quickly.”

Despite acknowledging that “Climate change is real”, he refused to commit to a Commission’s findings.

Mr Bridges has a long way to go.

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Frank Macskasy

[Address and phone number supplied]

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As if to underscore Mr Bridges’ double-think on this grave crisis confronting our civilisation;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 24 June 2018
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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How can current  National Party leader, Simon Bridges, expect to be taken seriously on his so-called ‘signing up’ to a Climate Change Commission when;

(1) He will not undertake any meaningful change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it may “harm our economy” or “drive up costs” – both propositions being examples of hyperbolic fear-mongering to do nothing meaningful. (Or as little as possible.)

(2) He refused to undertake to commit to any findings from a proposed Commission despite acknowledging that “climate change is real” and solutions should “be science based”. If he doesn’t commit to science based solutions, what will he commit to?

(3) On 12 April, National launched a petition to “Stop this Ardern-Peters Govt from banning oil and gas exploration”. Two months later, Bridges was ascending the moral highground demanding that “National wants to take the politics out of climate change and work with other parties to create an independent climate change commission. Climate change is a major environmental issue”.

Interviewed on  Radio NZ and TVNZ’s Q+A, Mr Bridges’s qualified his “commitment” to a Climate Change Commission with so many caveats, “ifs”, buts”, and “maybe in the future”, as to expose his supposed Road to Damascus conversion as politically expedient vote chasing.

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Frank Macskasy

[Address and phone number supplied]

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As an example of That was Then, This is now,  nothing better illustrates National’s duplicity than their two recent posts of Twitter.

Then

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So much for “National want[ing] to take the politics out of climate change”.

Some things do not seem to have changed much from May 2005, when a certain Member of Parliament dismissed climate change as a hoax;

“This is a complete and utter hoax, if I may say so. The impact of the Kyoto Protocol, even if one believes in global warming—and I am somewhat suspicious of it—is that we will see billions and billions of dollars poured into fixing something that we are not even sure is a problem. Even if it is a problem, it will be delayed for about 6 years. Then it will hit the world in 2096 instead of 2102, or something like that. It will not work.” – John Key, Debating Chamber, Parliament, 10 May 2005

Hat-tip: MickySavage, The Standard

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Green Party leader, James Shaw, took a more charitable view of Mr Bridges’ sudden change-of-heart;

“I think it is a genuine offer. National as the so-called party of business has been hearing from particularly the corporate end of town who have been saying that there really has to be a stable policy environment that has to survive multiple changes of Government.

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I think it is pretty unreasonable to ask them to support a piece of legislation that they haven’t seen yet and I think that engaging them in the process of drafting increases the chances that they will eventually vote for it.”

National may vote for it – but will they honour and abide by findings and recommendations from a Climate Change Commission? Especially when in 2012, National scrapped a crucial  five-yearly State of the Environment Report.

Broken promises have also played a significant part in National’s climate change policies. In May 2007, John Key promised to bring farmers into the Emissions Trading Scheme;

“National will bring all Kiwis – industry, energy producers, farmers, mums and dads – closer to a shared and well-understood goal. We need to be united in our pursuit of a ’50 by 50′ target”

By 2012, National had reneged, passing legislation exempting agriculture indefinitely from the ETS.

It is unclear why anyone would believe National’s concession to a Climate Change Commission when their track record has been one of broken promises, back-tracking, prevaricating, and conflicting statements on addressing emissions.

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Meanwhile, Nature waits for no Man, Woman, or out-of-touch political careerists. For the last quarter of a century, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures have quietly wrought it’s damage;

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BBC: Antarctica loses three trillion tonnes of ice in 25 years

13 June 2018

Satellites monitoring the state of the White Continent indicate some 200 billion tonnes a year are now being lost to the ocean as a result of melting.

This is pushing up global sea levels by 0.6mm annually – a three-fold increase since 2012 when the last such assessment was undertaken.

Scientists report the new numbers in the journal Nature.

Governments will need to take account of the information and its accelerating trend as they plan future defences to protect low-lying coastal communities.

The researchers say the losses are occurring predominantly in the West of the continent, where warm waters are getting under and melting the fronts of glaciers that terminate in the ocean.

[…]

Space agencies have been flying satellites over Antarctica since the early 1990s. Europe, in particular, has an unbroken observation record going back to 1992.

These spacecraft can tell how much ice is present by measuring changes in the height of the ice sheet and the speed at which it moves towards the sea. Specific missions also have the ability to weigh the ice sheet by sensing changes in the pull of gravity as they pass overhead.

[…]

In total, Antarctica has shed some 2.7 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, corresponding to an increase in global sea level of more than 7.5mm.

[…]

“At the moment, we have projections going through to 2100, which is sort of on a lifetime of what we can envisage, and actually the sea-level rise we will see is 50/60cm,” said Dr Whitehouse. “And that is not only going to impact people who live close to the coast, but actually when we have storms – the repeat time of major storms and flooding events is going to be exacerbated,” she told BBC News.

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For those with an aptitude for science, the raw date can be found on the Nature website. As well as orbiting satellite sensors,  the Argo Ocean probes continue to feed continuous data on temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean. Real-time data is collected and made publicly available soon after collection.

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New Zealand’s own NIWA has been part of the Argo Project since the early 2000s. Dedicated crew and scientists from New Zealand’s research vessels Tangaroa and Kaharoa placed over a thousand Argo Floats between 2004 and 2011.

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(Images courtesy of NIWA)

From space; to the planet’s surface; and undersea, sensitive instruments are revealing a grim picture of humanity’s impact on the environment and on our climate.

It is against this backdrop that Simon Bridges is playing silly-buggers with the greatest existential threat to humanity since the Americans and Soviets confronted each other during the Cold War.

Small-minded politicians can play their games to win elections.

But it will be at our expense.

Addendum

A recent survey by Horizon Polling has revealed that the majority of respondents “support all parties in Parliament agreeing on plans to act on climate change”;

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Cross-Party support for action on climate gas emissions showed a majority in favour;

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  • 41% of National voters support an all-party approach (31% are neutral, 21% oppose)
  • 67% of Labour voters support, 17% are neutral, 6% oppose
  • 93% of Green voters support, 3% are neutral and none oppose
  • 47% of NZ First voters support, 30% are neutral and 21% oppose

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Simon Bridges’ luke-warm ‘support’ for a Climate Change Commission threatens to make him more irrelevant than he is already. At this rate he will have to run to catch up with the rest of the country.

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References

Radio NZ: Nats change tune on commission for climate change

Scoop media: Q+A – Simon Bridges interviewed by Corin Dann (transcipt)

Scoop media: Q+A – Simon Bridges interviewed by Corin Dann (video)

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Bridges offers to work with govt on tackling climate change

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Twitter: Simon Bridges – Climate Change Commission

Parliament: Climate Change Response Amendment Bill – First Reading

NZ Herald: Climate change minister James Shaw welcomes ‘genuine’ approach from Simon Bridges

NZ Herald: National scraps crucial environmental report

Scoop media: John Key Speech – Climate Change Target

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

BBC: Antarctica loses three trillion tonnes of ice in 25 years

Nature: Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017

Argo: What is Argo?

Argo: Argo Floats

NIWA: Argo Floats

Horizon Polling:  Majority support all-party action on climate change

Additional

Fairfax media:  Simon Bridges blows hot air into climate change debate

Parliament: Climate Change Response Amendment Bill – First Reading – John Key

Radio NZ: ‘The science is clear – climate change is real’ – National

Other Blogposts

No Right Turn:  Climate Change: National’s forked tongue

The Daily Blog: National proclaiming they want to find climate change solutions is like the Tobacco industry proclaiming they want to find solutions to cancer

The Standard: Does National really want climate change to be a bipartisan issue?

Previous related blogposts

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 June 2018.

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