Friday, 29 April 2011

Brash & Banks: Batman & Robin or Dumb & Dumber?

So Don Brash and side-kick John Banks are ACT's and New Zealand's economic saviours. Didn't their last foray involve being on the board of failed fund manager Huljich Wealth Management - whose inadequate corporate governance has led to charges being laid? Brash and Banks walked away from that debacle and now seek to head a political party and incredibly Brash now seems to think that New Zealanders will accept him as Finance Minister.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Amalgamation and Privatisation Siamese Twins of National/ACT Union

Rodney Hide may be gone after the November election but his plan to “do an Auckland” and force local councils to merge into bigger less representative large bureaucracies lives on. If National-ACT get a second term a review of local government could see Wairarapa communities such as Masterton, Carterton, Greytown, Featherston and Martinborough even coastal settlements like Ngawi controlled by a large Wellington dominated super city council.

With ex National leader Don Brash leading ACT any hope of the Wairarapa retaining a strong independent local identity under a Key-Brash regime will be gone completely. The marketing of the forced amalgamation of rural and urban councils into the Auckland “Super-City” as a “unique one-off” can be seen as another lie. In reality it was a guinea pig master plan the government hopes to force on all NZers.

Consider NACT’s record on local government. There was much talk about Aucklanders’ being allowed to speak with one voice and the “local being put back into local government.” This was pure spin. Local voices are drowned to a whisper with the massive centralisation. The local voice is reduced to toothless community boards and some 75% of property, formerly owned by ratepayers, is now placed under the control of hand-picked, unelected corporate boards. Even now in Auckland we can see the beginnings of the private ownership by the wealthy few of Auckland’s water infrastructure.

In Auckland, the function and role of the corporatised Council Controlled Organisations dominated structural reform. The changes in Auckland mean all water and wastewater functions are now managed by Watercare Services Ltd and all transport functions (except for the time being motorways) are managed by Auckland Transport. Several other large Council Controlled Organisations also manage regional facilities, economic development, property development, the waterfront and investments. I suggest that amalgamation is only one part of a Siamese twin spawned as part of this National-ACT union. The other half still to emerge is the selling off of publicly owned assets.

With the government’s fondness for flogging off assets to its corporate mates, it will only be a matter of time before assets currently controlled by our local councils on behalf of ratepayers are also earmarked to be sold off.

NZ has an appalling experience of privatisation. The sale of NZ Rail and Air NZ went so pear-shaped that the State had to buy them back. Among others Telecom stands out as a failure in terms or developing our telecommunications system despite monopoly profits, most of which went overseas with little reinvestment. Let us not forget the handing over of our banking system to the Australian banks through the sale of the Trustee Savings Banks, the BNZ and Postbank, only marginally remedied to date by the creation of Kiwibank. Most shameful was the bargain basement sale of the Government Printing Office, which jump-started the empire of NZ’s wealthiest man, Graeme Hart.

Since privatisation social goods are minimised and tax-payers witness huge price increases in their power and phone bills. Alongside this there is a marked inadequate investment. NZers still have yet to experience a reasonably priced and secure power supply.

When Telecom was sold, the government lost most of its ability to ensure that New Zealand's telecommunications infrastructure was provided, maintained and developed in the public interest. Again most profits went offshore and there was practically no investment in core infrastructure.

The government has said that they may consider Public Private Partnerships (“PPPs”). If we apply this to a hospital for example the PPP contractor gains powers to decide on aspects of the design of the hospital, who uses its facilities and how they are charged for, and the use of the hospital for commercial activities such as vending machines or franchises such as burger or fried chicken chains. Late last year the government was enamoured with idea of granting a monopoly position in the provision of services and facilities for 25-35 years to corporates in terms of water and sewerage services. This is a seismic shift in power where social utility will take a back-seat to profits for off shore corporations.

In reality the Auckland Super-City is a failure that destroys local representation, dilutes democracy and just delivers rate-payers assets into the hands of the wealthy. Why should the people of the Wairarapa believe this master plan for local government will be any different here?

I believe the mantra "bigger is better" borrowed from big business but spliced into local government, will mutate into something that is un-New Zealand in terms of democracy.

Simply put the bigger a local authority is, the less say ratepayers have in what happens to the place where they live. More important than the economic failure of this model is the scant regard to the social consequences of this forced amalgamation.

To what extent will the disappearance of our local bodies contribute to a loss of identity, especially with our youth, that sense of identity and the fact that local people feel they can’t stand up and make a difference? In reality, the more disempowered people feel the more neighbourliness dies and the more street crime increases.

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting where Wellington City Mayor Celia Wade-Brown was speaking. The issue of amalgamation was raised. Her view was that Wellington City would be the hub of any Wellington Region Super-City of which the Wairarapa would comprise a part. In reality the voice of the Wairarapa would be lost in any Super-City. Lambton Quay and Porirua have nothing in common with the streets and roads of the Wairarapa. Further assets that have been bought and paid for by ratepayers will be sold off, prices will rise and the profits will go out of the Wairarapa to corporate entities with no social conscience.

I’m committed to fighting hard to retain Wairarapa’s independence and voice and standing up against the Government’s proposal to make our wonderful region a part of a super city that will destroy our uniqueness, not to mention Wairarapa’s voice.

"There is no privatisation agenda for Meridian, nor is there for any other SOE." - John Key, July 2009

"... we've asked for advice on extending the mixed-ownership model to four state-owned enterprises, where the Government on behalf of taxpayers would keep a majority stake but offer a minority shareholding to Kiwi investors." John Key, 28 January 2011

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


The Christchurch Earthquake has hit the Fire Service. New Zealand fire fighters received huge praise for their heroic efforts in rescuing the people of Christchurch however the cost of doing this could affect the upgrade of aging equipment throughout New Zealand. I understand that the Fire Service has incurred $8.5 million dollars in costs as a result of services in Christchurch. Apparently the Fire Service chief executive Mike Hall expects to absorb the costs by cutting back spending on new fire engines and stations. The Fire Service's earthquake costs again raise long-debated issues about how it was funded through a fire levy on insurance. For home-owners, a portion of their house insurance goes to the fire service levy. Most schools, hospitals and state agencies do not pay the levy. Thanks to this funding stupidity New Zealand is going to be left with a less effective Fire Service. While 15 percent of homeowners are not insured the biggest bludger in terms of avoiding the levy is the Government. Rural New Zealand wants an assurance that if their is a funding shortfall, that this will not be a the loss of service delivery and compromise to the safety of New Zealanders. It is ironic that the Government is busy slashing public welfare and social services yet can find billions of dollars for corporate welfare such as South Canterbury Finance, a plastic waka and millions of dollars for their new fleet of chauffeur driven BMWs with heated seats.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Government Attacks Legal Aid For Citizens But Pays Over A Million To Defend Itself

"The Ministry of Health has spent more than $1 million fighting court action by families who want to be paid for looking after severely disabled relatives.
New figures show the Ministry has spent $1.2 million so far fighting seven families who the High Court has ruled are being discriminated against because they care for relatives.
The Ministry is preparing to appeal against that ruling.
Peter Humphreys, whose 23-year-old daughter has a neuro-genetic disorder, says it is unbelievable that even more taxpayers' money will be used in a Supreme Court hearing.
Health Minister Tony Ryall says the case has significant potential implications beyond the health and disability sector, which would cost far more than the legal bill.
" (Radio New Zealand News 21 April 2011)

This is disgusting. I know of a father who when he turned 65 finally got a pay rise - it was his pension. For the bulk of his adult life he has looked after his two intellectually disabled kids at home. The only difference from other pensioners is that this man cannot retire. When I was at the Masterton A&P show in February I met a couple in their early 30s. They had three autistic children. They were at the start of this lifetime of underpaid service. This couple are on a benefit. Earlier this year John Key said that being on a benefit "was a lifestyle choice". This was no lifestyle choice. This couple are just normal parents who love their kids and want to look after them. It is outrageous that Government after Government have allowed people with disabilities and those parents who look after their disabled children to be consigned to a lifetime of poverty and effective slavery.

This Government has embarked on a hard on law and order crusade. State cash is poured into building new and larger prisons, our right to elect trial by jury is being eroded and thanks to Simon Power you can shortly be tried in your absence. Worse as an accused person you can be penalised for not telling the State what your defence is. Criminal legal aid is attacked, and lawyers who defend accused persons are attacked as being "greedy and bloated". Yet when the Government wants to avoid doing the morally right thing it is okay for them to spend up big with their own legal aid.

We are developing a baked bean conveyer belt justice system where accused people unless they earn less than the minimum wage will not qualify for legal aid. But even if you do, you will not be able to choose your own lawyer. Then we have the new state bureaucracy Public Defence Service ("PDS") - set up to "compete against the independent defence bar." New figures out show the PDS enters guilty pleas at the earliest opportunity at a far greater rate than clients who choose their own lawyers. It was no wonder that most accused persons didn't want to choose to use the PDS.

So the answer to this was for the Government to force you to use them by removing your right to choose your lawyer. The hypocritical thing about legal aid is that it is a loan. When you are granted legal aid unless you are destitute, a caveat is placed against your house. If you needed a loan to build that house you chose your builder - the bank didn't assign you one from the Public Builders Service. Yet now because you need a loan to defend something far more important - your liberty you can't choose your lawyer.

It is disgusting how the Government is eroding our rights and freedoms and is compelling kiwis to use the state PDS which has a track record of pleading guilty to the state's charges sooner than independent lawyers. It is even more disgusting seeing this Government attacking legal aid for citizens yet being happy to spend over $1 million dollars defending themselves from doing what most kiwis believe is morally right.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


I have just spent the weekend with a team of Labour volunteers listening to the concerns of the people of Masterton. A repeated remark was, “no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get ahead”. One hardworking mum from Columbo Street has not bought a block of cheese for her children for months and a leg of lamb is a long remembered luxury. A couple of pensioners told me how they get two hours home help a week and are struggling to get by. These people are not alone. For the majority of people it seems again and again that those at the top of our economy are creaming it while the rest of us are taking the biggest hits.

Hearing these people I remembered back to May last year when the Government with much fanfare announced a tax reform package to “stimulate the economy and take us out of recession.” The goal was to reduce the budget deficit and transform New Zealand into a savings focused powerhouse.

The theory was that by cutting the top income tax rate from 39 per cent to 33 per cent middle income earners would pull themselves up by their boot straps and achieve higher incomes as they would keep more of what they made. And those at the top of our economy could afford to save their extra income, thus kick-starting our economy with the hoped for increase in our New Zealand savings rate.

These cuts were to be balanced by an increase in GST (effectively making the tax cuts self-funding). This increase was supposed to discourage consumption and encourage saving. Company tax was to be cut. This was all meant to act as a draw card for companies to invest and employ more workers. Labour warned at the time that these tax cuts were not affordable and any increase in GST would hit middle and lower kiwis and chew up any tax cuts. The ability to save for most kiwis would remain a fantasy.

Eleven months on, Labour’s warnings have been proven, unfortunately right. On top of rising food and petrol prices, the shock of GST has meant that average kiwis have even less money in their pockets, and any tax cut is spent on just getting by. Pensioners and lower income kiwis have been hit hardest. Business after business are either closing down or cutting staff.

The tax cuts for those on higher salaries has not been saved and invested in job-creation. Instead, it is being geared up with yet more foreign-supplied debt. The latest March figures released by Barfoot and Thompson for property sales in Auckland show those on higher salaries are grabbing expensive properties again with sales of properties worth more than $800,000 rising by 40 percent from March last year. Lower priced houses barely rose in price.

Meanwhile the Government is pushing ahead with its plans for asset sales. Hocking off our assets to foreign buyers and slashing spending is a return to the failed right wing policies of the past. Middle and lower New Zealand are being ignored by this Government and they will be the ones to suffer even more if our nation’s assets are sold off. We are facing cuts to health and education and now if this Government gets a second term we’ll be paying even more to heat our homes and drink water as power companies and public utilities are sold off to wealthy foreign investors. Selling state assets to foreign corporations, will drive up the current account deficit, send profits overseas and drive up costs for Kiwis.

In 2008 this Government campaigned on closing the wage gap with Australia. Now the gap has widened to 30 percent and Bill English is in the embarrassing position of trying to say that this is a good thing as we can make goods cheaper here than in Australia. It appears that Bill English wants us to become the Mexico of the South Pacific.

The Government constantly tells us that the cupboard is bare and we must all tighten out belts. Yet they can:
- Borrow $120 million monthly to fund tax cuts two thirds of which go to the top 10 percent of the population;
- Provide Mediaworks (a company previously owned by the Minister of Broadcasting) with $43 million loan at a rate they couldn't obtain on the open market;
- Find $1.2 billion dollars to bail out private speculators in SCF;
- Find $2 million dollars to build and gift a plastic boat to the Government’s political friends;
- Find $6.8 million to buy themselves a fleet of BMWs to be chauffeured around in.

These things sit awkwardly with not only me but also with the hardworking families and pensioners of the Wairarapa. At a time when ordinary people are struggling to pay grocery bills and weighing up whether to have a warm home or give their children a healthy meal, life under National is very comfortable for those at the top.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Tiki Taane arrest a blow for freedom of speech? - Audio Player - Audio - RadioLIVE

Tiki Taane arrest a blow for freedom of speech? - Audio Player - Audio - RadioLIVE

The arrest of musician Tiki Taane for the Summary Offences Act offence of disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence raises a number of issues, indeed the blogosphere has been hot with views of what did or did not occur. What we do know is that Mr Taane was arrested while performing at 3-00am. He has been charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence to start or continue. Police reports suggest he was arrested "when things got out of hand." I've got no idea what that phrase means - it could easily mean that someone in a position of power got annoyed at the song. But in any event I have seen no evidence to date of any violence caused by or initiated by Mr Taane, or any information that violence was about to start or continue as a result of Mr Taane's actions in singing a protest song. The only violence I have read of (so far) is that used in bending a musician's hands behind his back, applying handcuffs and marching him through a crowd and banging him up in a cell overnight. The point being that if there is no evidence of violence being used, incited or threatened then Police will have some significant problems.

First did the Police exercise their arrest discretion appropriately? By this I mean was Mr Tanne's behaviour such that it merited the exercise of the arrest discretion by Police at all? Second was it appropriate to handcuff Mr Taane and was it appropriate to take him into custody? This was an occasion of an arrest without warrant. The balancing of the discretion to arrest with the seriousness of the offence with the New Zealand Bill of Rights received careful consideration in Bruce James Neilsen v Attorney-General NZCA 03/05/2001. It may be arguable that the actions of the police in arresting the Mr Taane were unlawful in Neilson terms in that the arrest resulted from a failure to exercise proper discretion in line with General Instruction A291 and detailed guidance given in the Manual for Detectives:

General Instruction A291 states:

(1) The power to arrest without Warrant, especially for minor offences, is to be exercised with discretion. Where persons can be brought before the Courts by way of Summons, this course should be followed.
(2) The question uppermost in the mind of a member considering arresting a person without Warrant should be whether the Prosecution is the best way of resolving the matter, or if there is a more appropriate alternative such as a warning, caution, counselling or referral to another Agency.

Further and more detailed guidance is given in the Manual for Detectives, Second Edition, issued by the Commissioner on 7 November 1983. Chapter 3 is directed to arrest and referring to the discretion under s 315 the Manual provides at 3.6 to 3.7:

Use of Discretion
1 The power of arrest without warrant is to be exercised with discretion at all times.
2 The purpose of arrest is to —
(a) Bring an offender to justice, or
(b) Prevent —
(i) A breach of the peace, or
(ii) The commission of further offences.
3 Arrest deprives a person of his liberty before he has been proved guilty. Proof of guilt may not necessarily result in a custodial sentence.
Unnecessary arrests damage the reputation of the Police and cause ill feeling and antagonism.
4 The utmost restraint and discretion should be used in using the power to arrest children and young persons without warrant.
5 When minor offences are committed by persons who can be brought before the Court on summons, there is no need to arrest.
6 Factors to consider before making an arrest are —
(a) The nature and gravity of the offence
(b) The likelihood of —
(i) Further offences being committed
(ii) Accomplices being warned
(iii) Witnesses being interfered with
(iv) Evidence being destroyed or concealed
(v) The offender absconding to avoid Court
(c) Offender’s —
(i) Character, reputation and criminal history
(ii) Family circumstances, place of abode, and employment
(iii) Condition - it may justify an arrest in his own or the public interest.
[Paras 35-36, Neilsen]

Similarly another person was arrested for resisting or obstructing a Police Officer in the execution of his/her duty. The question was did that person believe that the officer was acting in the execution of their duty? In the case of R v Thomas the Court of Appeal held:

It is now settled law in New Zealand that in the ordinary class of case where the prosecution must prove mens rea “an honest belief in a state of affairs or as to the existence of a fact, which if true would make the act innocent, will provide a defence itself. It is not then incumbent on an accused to establish reasonable grounds for such belief although such may be relevant in testing the honesty of the belief in the first place” — per McMullin J in Millar v Ministry of Transport [1986] 1 NZLR 660 at 673. It is for the prosecution to prove that the accused had no such belief once an evidentiary basis for it has been established …

Therefore the intent to obstruct the constable in the course of her duty is an element of the offence. The prosecution has to prove that the appellant assumed that the person he assaulted was a constable acting in the course of his/her duty and that he did intend to obstruct him/her in the performance of her duty. In R v Christiansen the Court of Appeal confirmed that the use of excessive force takes a constable outside the scope of his or her duty and an accused would lack the intent if he or she had an honest belief that the constable was using excessive force in effecting an arrest.

Further section 48 of the Crimes Act states:
Every one is justified in using, in the defence of himself or another, such force as, in the circumstances, as he believes them to be, it is reasonable to use.

If a defendant believed Tauranga Police used excessive force against Mr Taane then he would lack the mens rea element of the offence. It would also afford a defence under s 48 if he believed the circumstances were such that it would be reasonable to use force.

So these simple charges will provide some interesting discussion for some time to come. I have not even touched the freedom of speech points - but this will be a very interesting case to watch. As the Privy Council said in the case of Sir Robert Jones v Attorney General sued on behalf of New Zealand Police, "While this incident was on one view minor and mundane, no abuse of police power (if such occurred) is ever trivial."

Concerns over MyFone by Civil Liberties - Audio Player - Audio - RadioLIVE

Concerns over MyFone by Civil Liberties - Audio Player - Audio - RadioLIVE

New cellphone snooping technology can place children and people suffering domestic abuse at risk as it gives the parent, family or abusive spouse the ability to track the phone & monitor texts and calls made & received. The potential for abuse is huge and once again technology is rushed into use without proper protections for those who will be put at risk. The desire to pry into the lives of others, even for good intentions, can often be very dangerous.

The thought that what you and think may be listened in on, weighed and measured by others can have a chilling effect on free speech and thought. We as a society are slowly being desensitized to being monitored by others. Orwell's vision of the all powerful all monitoring state where there is no private sphere is becoming a reality faster than we think.

Here is what one cellphone snooping ad says:"Mobile Spy is the next generation of smartphone spy software. Do you suspect that your child or employee is abusing their SMS or vehicle privileges? If yes, then this software is ideal for you. Install this small program directly onto your compatible smartphone you want to monitor to begin recording.
Using the Internet capabilities of your phone, recorded activities, logs and GPS locations are quickly uploaded to your Mobile Spy account. To view the results, you simply login to your secure account at the Mobile Spy web site. Logs are displayed by categories and sorted for easy browsing.
The software is completely stealth and works independently. Mobile Spy does not rely on the phone's call and message logs to record activities. So even if the user tries to delete their tracks, the data will still be retained and uploaded. Compatible with most models of iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phones! Also compatible with Windows Mobile, Symbian OS and iPad.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Bott On The Actions Of the Architect of NACTs 3 Strike Law

Copy and paste this link to hear my take on David Garrett's actions in stealing the identity of a dead baby. It is admirable that people can make mistakes when they are young and yet move on. But it is hypocritical when having received mercy you then seek to deny others of the same benefit:

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


On 6 April 2011 the NZ Herald reported the remarks of new Police Commissioner Peter Marshall regarding arming the police: Within months police can expect an easing of restrictions for using Tasers and greater access, including one in every frontline vehicle, under new Police Commissioner Peter Marshall.
He also supports more access to firearms, tougher penalties for those who assault police, and a jail term for every time a driver flees police.
But Commissioner Marshall, 57, who started a three-year term this week, is against the general arming of police, even though it is supported by the Police Association.
"It may come in the future, but nothing I've seen at this stage suggests to me that the public or police are going to be safer through general arming," Commissioner Marshall said

We can see a steady move precedent by precedent towards the arming of our Police with the ready ability to inflict lethal force. The routine arming of police carries obvious dangers. There is a proud tradition in New Zealand of policing by consent, not by force, policing with the support and the co-operation of the public. The arming of Police puts a distance between the public and Police. The fact that every officer carries on his or her person a device to inflict lethal force is the ultimate example of the State sanctioned threat of force to effect control. This represents a change in culture that could ultimately distance Police from co-operation with the public.

The sentencing today (7 April 2011) of the teenager responsible for the horrific and cowardly attack upon Senior Constable Bruce Mellor just north of Taihape should not be used as a support for the call to routinely arm Police. Greg O’Connor makes no secret that he wants all Police to be armed. Police Minister Judith Collins supports as an interim measure most Police cars being fitted with “lock boxes” containing guns and has suggested that officers in rural areas, due to isolation should have more ready recourse to guns than their city counterparts (Radio New Zealand 13 December 2010). However, before we rush head long into a Wyatt Earp response to perceived violent crime in New Zealand we should pause and ask some questions.

There is the logic of the Arms Race about the pro-gun argument. Police need guns because the other side may have them, and if all Police have them, Police and society will be safer. This sounds like the reasoning of escalation between the Americans and the Soviets that drove the Arms Race. With respect the more guns there are in society the greater the likelihood that they will be used.

The other point is that when a gun is fired even if the bullet hits the target it may travel out of the target and beyond, further what happens if the officer misses? This happened in Auckland in 2009 and Halatau Naitoko an innocent courier driver was killed. He left behind grieving parents, a grieving partner and a young child who will only have faint memories of her father if she’s lucky. With the greater availability of guns for Police the risk of innocent people being caught in cross fire will increase. The officer who shot Mr. Naitoko was reported as having the offender in his scope, but when he pulled the trigger it was Mr. Naitoko who was shot in the chest. Also worrying was that another officer fired a round with his glock pistol in the direction of the offender from 40m away. It was luck that more people were not killed.

Former Police Commissioner Howard Broad writing in Police magazine Ten-One observed (June 2009). “We also have to ask how many officers’ lives might have been saved if they were carrying a hand gun. I can think of one – I can also think of two instances where the officer was beaten to death with his own baton.” This is a valid point, what if an officer is “jumped” and his or her weapon is taken? With more guns on hips this scenario becomes increasingly likely. Further most offenders who use a firearm use a rifle or shotgun. A pistol is no match for one of those.
With Officer Mellor, a gun would have made no difference. He had obtained information from his attackers and had turned his back when they began their attack. Arguably if he was attacked from behind any gun on his hip could have been taken from him and possibly either used against him and or circulated into the criminal fraternity to be used against other New Zealanders.
What of the tricky situation, where you have a mentally unstable person smashing windows with a golf club in the early hours of the morning? If the officer on the scene has a gun rather than withdrawing and containing there is an increasing likelihood that the officer will confront the person and use the weapon. Former Commissioner Broad appears to agree, “So our strategies rely on officers’ good judgment. They are trained to identify risk and if they encounter an armed situation, to withdraw, cordon and contain until appropriately armed officers can be deployed. If the situation is equivocal, they have arms at ready resort with which to equip themselves. 
This tactic has worked very well for over 40 years.”

In my youth local Police were stationed in areas for years and knew the community they were part of and were seen as part of the communities they served to protect. If someone was unhinged a calming word and de-escalation was usually the chosen tactic. In our new culture of zero tolerance, tact and diplomacy appear to be placed in a “lock-box” as pepper-spray, Tasers, and now pistols appear to be weapons that are increasingly considered as a first resort. When guns become more common so will their use and I doubt if society will be any safer.

The Fourth Estate Is Being Reduced To A Corporate Fifth Column

The demise of the NZPA is regrettable. As a social democrat, I believe it is naive to expect capitalist corporations or media “barons” like Rupert Murdoch to act in the public interest untainted by a political agenda. The corporate media consolidation is a corrosive social force. It robs people of their voice in public affairs and turns the debates about profound issues into a shouting match of polarized views promulgated by partisan apologists who trivialize democracy. Spin will replace the independent attempt to get to the truth about how our country is being plundered. In short the fourth estate will become a fifth column.

With the decline of independent news sources and the government's retreating from funding state radio and television by default the fourth estate (one of the historic protections of our liberty), is now largely controlled by a few corporate boards whose mission is not our liberties and freedoms, but the profit and goals of the managing directors and shareholders. The drive to hold public and private power accountable will increasingly be reduced to a diminishing voice on the sideline as news is manufactured as a consumer commodity.

For democracy to work the people must be informed. The process of providing information to the people is therefore a source of great power. Our democracy has withered as the neutral or non-partisan journalist is being replaced by minions doing their employers bidding. As journalistic resources are reduced journalism no longer becomes the hard bitten digging for "the story" but the process of accepting pre-packaged position papers from competing interest groups. News is becoming the illusion of a popular contest where the reality sees the growth of state power and the strengthening of privilege.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


John Key made his $50 million working as a wheeler-dealer at Merrill Lynch, one of those business houses implicated in the greed driven financial crisis. In essence he made his pile out of manipulating economies so it is no surprise that he is adept at being economical with the truth. Read his latest spin where he attempts to blame Labour for National's continuing to shovel our money into South Canterbury Finance:

The reason we're in this position is Labour signed up to a deposit guarantee scheme. South Canterbury Finance had massive loans. Those loans went broke. There were inter-party and related-party loans.
The receivers have now discovered they're worth a lot less than they were and every bid we had from any consortium that came to the Government always had a provision that said because they were unable to quantify the losses, then the Government had to underwrite all of those losses.
So, frankly, David Cunliffe doesn't know what he's talking about
. (The Press 5 April 2011)

At the time Labour established the Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme the Government had little option. Australia had offered a similar scheme for some time and the government had to do something to staunch a serious fiscal bleed. Further the recession had not hit and it is always easy to talk having been informed with the wisdom of hindsight. But embarrassingly for Key the Crown approved SCF's participation in the scheme on 1 April 2010. I quote from SCF's press release issued on 1 April 2010:

Thursday, 1 April 2010, 5:31 pm
Press Release: South Canterbury Finance
1 April 2010

Crown approves South Canterbury Finance for Extended Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme
South Canterbury Finance Limited has today been approved to participate in the Crown’s Extended Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme.
The scheme will provide all eligible investors with the benefit of the Crown guarantee until 31 December 2011.
Welcoming the Crown’s decision, South Canterbury Finance Chairman Allan Hubbard says a major milestone has been achieved.

Worse Key also fails to tell taxpayers that while NZ was in the middle of the first recession and again under Key's leadership, National extended the retail deposit guarantee. I quote from Bill English's Press Release from 25 August 2009:

Government to extend retail deposit guarantee

The Government will extend the Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme and change some of its terms and conditions, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The current scheme ends on October 12, 2010. The new scheme will start on October 13, 2010 and end on December 31, 2011.

The Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme was introduced as a direct response to international financial market turbulence. Immediate concerns about the stability of the financial system are now abating,” Mr English says.

Crown retail guarantees have helped maintain confidence in New Zealand’s financial institutions. However, they also distort the market and impose costs.

The planned extension will help maintain confidence in New Zealand’s financial institutions while achieving an orderly exit from the scheme. It will allow both depositors and institutions to adjust back to a more normal business environment.

Today’s announcement provides certainty for investors and financial institutions. It also strikes the right balance for taxpayers.

Depositors and institutions have more than a year of advance notice before the scheme changes and then a further 14 months under the extended scheme until the Crown guarantee ends on December 31, 2011.

When Labour established the retail deposit scheme they were responding to an immediate need to keep NZ internationally competitive and prevent an investment bleed. National however announced that they would extend the scheme in 2009. Worse SCF was admitted to the scheme under National's watch and worse still by that stage it was obvious that SCF was a lemon. This raises questions as to why? There were a lot of big money people with funds in SCF. It is time for Kiwis to look behind the spin and see Key for what he really is a slick fertiliser salesman with a mouth full of free samples.

Friday, 1 April 2011


Towards the end of March I was in Dannevirke at a public meeting to talk about the cuts to Early Childhood Education. The meeting was organised by the New Zealand Education Institute. Together with a speaker for that sector the incumbent MP and myself had been invited.

The incumbent declined saying he was in parliament and as no parent in the electorate had approached him, he didn’t see it as an issue. I read his reply out to the audience. A woman stood up in the meeting and said she had gone to speak with him about the cuts but he refused to see her. Obviously if you don’t speak with people you will remain out of touch. The problem is even greater however than just a local MP being out of touch with ordinary people. The fact is the whole Government appears to inhabit a different world from the rest of us.

When National first sat its pin-striped pants on the Treasury benches in December 2008, the recession had just begun to hit. Bill English the Finance Minister said, “This is the rainy day that Government has been saving up for.” He was talking about the ability of New Zealand to handle the global financial crisis. “New Zealand starts from a reasonable position in dealing with the uncertainty of our economic outlook.” Clearly Bill English understood Labour left New Zealand in a strong economic position. In 2008 Government was in credit to the tune of 4.7 percent of GDP. New Zealand thanks to Labour had begun to develop a good savings record with KiwiSaver and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. The NZ Super Fund (the “Cullen Fund”) was designed to help fund the spike in demand for super payments from “baby boomers” – arguably a stroke of genius from a government focused on the long term inheritance of future generations ahead of short term electoral gains. Labour‘s forward thinking legacy has now been squandered by this lackluster government.

So 2½ years on, while the rest of the world comes out of the crisis, New Zealand is heading back into recession. Even before the two Christchurch earthquakes, New Zealand’s economy had stalled. Currently we are borrowing $22 billion in 4 years to fund tax cuts – two-thirds of which go to 10 percent of the population. This money is money we could be spending in other parts of the economy to boost activity. Instead to fund these tax cuts average New Zealanders are losing jobs, having to borrow to pay bills and our debt is increasing at an alarming rate when we can least afford it.

As I move around the electorate people are telling me the same story. They are struggling just to make ends meet. It is something I am aware of personally. My Subaru costs me around $110-00 to fill the tank. Last year it cost only around $ 68-00. For a lot of people this is a struggle in itself. One woman told me that her grocery bill has now gone up by $ 60-00 more than it did before last years budget. Labour wants to help these families that’s why Labour undertakes to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables. Two weeks ago pensioner after pensioner told me the same thing. No matter how hard they try they cannot make ends meet.

National laughs at this – that is not surprising they are out of touch but who can blame them? The Prime Minister for example is a man of immense personal wealth. High earning people like him get the most from tax-cuts. The irony is that he obtained his wealth while working as a wheeler-dealer at Merrill Lynch, one of those business houses implicated in the global financial crisis. But he got out with $50 million before it hit the fan. At a time when a large number of Kiwis are struggling to put food on the table our leader thinks nothing of attending a $7,000 a head dinner with his wife prepared by British chef Heston Blumenthal. Worth noting is that a pensioner’s annual income is only $14529 to $19425 before tax. This only serves to underscore the real separation between National and real people. John Key smiles and waves for the cameras in Christchurch then jumps on a plane to Cape Kidnappers for an event that for two would cost the equivalent of a pensioner’s yearly income on one-off novelty dining with his wife – you can’t get more different than that.

National’s plans for asset sales are dangerous. The private sector got us into the global financial crisis and to flog off wealth creating assets to the private sector who will have to rely on borrowing to purchase the assets is folly. To talk about the size of total debt, then to advocate a policy of privatization which will involve the incurring of more debt is nuts. Further if the offer to buy is for New Zealand investors only, they will be sold at a discount as the prospective market of purchasers will be artificially reduced. As I have said previously we just can’t trust National that only 49 percent of each asset will be flogged off, after all National promised they would not raise GST in the first term.

It is seductively easy to overstate the scale and imminence of economic threats and then exaggerate “shock doctrine” arguments for instant radical change. That’s where Think Big, Rogernomics, Ruthenasia and the current reversal of the Welfare State come from. The essence of this approach is to laud the existence and inherent wisdom of the market economy. Yet in reality it was this same unrestrained market that created the global financial crisis in the first place.

The upshot of all this borrowing is now whenever our economy looks like recovering, the benefits of any growth are to be shipped offshore as profits and dividends from now foreign-owned assets, and as interest payments on the debt incurred over the last decade. Last year, New Zealand paid $15.5 billion in profits and interest payments to foreign investors and creditors. Only $3.3 billion was reinvested. That is the size of the drag on the New Zealand economy. National has no plan for growth, they are divorced from the every day reality of New Zealanders. Labour put New Zealand in a sound position to weather the financial crisis and only Labour will provide a way out of the mire that National has created.