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The finish line approaches

November 6, 2008

So it’s the last day of campaigning.

Been offline for a while, billable work’s been calling, so it’s good to hit the keys again today. Hey, it’s good to hit the keys every day! Sorry, too easy.

Key is prattling on with the cheerful disposition of a deregulating zealot banker who’s just been told by the country’s largest newspaper that he’s the PM and we needn’t bother with the election.

Here’s what I bothg love and hate about John Key: he has about him the air of a true Nat. What is that?

  1. He has a singular agenda: wealth at the expense of welfare, fuelled by the dismissal of culture
  2. He is constantly looking for ways to disavow this fact
  3. He performs #2 with a complete lack of originality, precisely because he doesn’t mean it
  4. WIthout any of his own original policies, the best he has to draw on are Labour’s.

He’s not the first National MP to do this. The previous National government predicated itself entirely on extending Labour policy, albeit largey abberant Labour policy.

Like the previous National leader, Key is a banker. But let’s look at the previous National prime minister, and see how Key stacks up there.

Insert: OK, previous but one.

Bolger was mighty experienced by the time he got to the 9h floor. He’d already been an elected cabinet MP.

Bolger was a farmer. The National Party exists historically – some would even say primarily – to protect farmers’ interests.

Bolger was Irish. As Chris Trotter has pointed out, it was perhaps this which endowed him with a strong and even a progressive sense of nationalism. Under Bolger’s watch, and against the will of his entire cabinet, New Zealand saw the introduction of two vital and dynamic aspects of New Zealand’s contemporary democracy: the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and proportional representation.

What else do I like about John Key? He’s intelligent. I don’t trust him. I get the sense that he’s smarter than I am, or less honest, or both.

I really, really don’t like that the first thing he said when he became the leader was that he’d not have done KiwiSaver and that he’d have sent troupes to Iraq, and that he immediately unsaid those things when he realised they were both deeply unpopular.

I really, really, really dislike Roger Douglass. I’ve voted for him before. It hurt, and it caused many people much grief. He said “we’ll get farmers and students first. Nobody cares about either of them.” And if Rodney gets in, Douglass’s man will be in position, and we’ll never hear the bloody end of it, and the end will be bloody indeed.

Live coverage

October 29, 2008

Candidate debate, Titirangi Presbo Church. 30 Oct, 7pm.

Tim Groser, N.

Kath Dewear, G.

Mikaere Curtis, G.

David Cunliffe, L.

The meeting’s already 20 minutes late and Cunliffe’s nowhere in sight, leaving plenty of time for jokes about investment in public transport.

Tim Groser wins the toss. He says he used to be an actor. He says he couldn’t leave Wellington fast enough. Not very fitting for a politician.

Primarily: economic issues.

Seondary: social issues.

He’s saying for the first time ever we’re poorer than Australia’s poorest state, Tasmania.

He’s saying we’re the most diasporic country in the developed world.

The econimic foundations are subsiding.

This he attributes to poor education.

He says he’s not a particularly partial National party member.

Cunliffe just walked in.

He’s finishing with a bit about John.

Nest up:Mikaere. We’re about the party vote. Going to cover the ground made by the Greens.

Takes issues with the Diaspora. 30 million Irish passports, 3 mil Irish residents. We don’t know diaspora.

Why do we go to Australia? Because National put us out of work.

Back to the Greens. Apart from achievements under Labour, Greens are inherently consultative. That’s for damn sure!  All you have to be is be a member.

Housing insulation under ETS. It’ll be scrapped by National.

Food labelling. We all know what can go wrong after Fonterra’s debacle in China.

Un-damning the Waitaki.

Save Happy Valley.

Human rights. Keith Lock on Ahmed Zaoui.

Kath’s thanking everyone for turning up. Especially the Res&Ratepayers who’re hosting. She’s Yorkshire. But found Turangawaewae here in NZ. Marketing, own bizness, etc. etc.

Stop acknowledging people!

Been working to reduce plastic bags in Green Bay. I clap and get half the room to follow suit.

We’re all about local involement in decisions. It’s key for us. Why Greens are in local gvt, and why we oppose National’s reduction of the RMA, which reduces the public say, in things like the local Vector substation.

Want to impose 300m minimum between substations and people. Big claps and hearhears.

Safety in food. Everyone wants it. “We’re disgusted the will of most NZers is being ignored.”

A vote for N or L is a vote for harmful foods, I think she said. A deal with Monsanto.

Transport: Pple in Titirangi use their cars, a lot. That’s because there ain’t no choice.

If you care about the kids in the room, the only planet we’ve got, then do something good. PVG.

Natalie Kupanga. Kiwi Party for Tamaki Makaurau. After the party vote. Ngati Parau. From Ruatoria. We were never encouraged to go to University. Highest goal for us was to be a school teacher.

Was a public servant in wellinton and was introduced to individualism. My this, my that. A shock. Was mroe used to “our.”

Went back to school as an adult with 2 kids. Realised potential as a Maori in this country.

One day got a visitor from the EEC. He knew how many Maoris were going to Aussie, and why. “That saddened my heart.”

Standards: attracted to the Kiwi Party. Helped set up the Maori Party. Why? Had a gutsful. The F&Sbed was the last straw.

The sea is our food cupboard. It was taken away from us. In addition to farming. But red meat is not so helpful to us.

So, why the Kiwi Party? I came across an anomaly. The party vote. It may not happen to other parties, but for Maori, the party vote goes nowhere for Maori. In an interview, raised two things about the party vote. Population size, the party vote means nothing. Two votes to the Maori Party is gonna be wasted. Maori Party vote went two to National, two to labour, one to the greens and one to … sorry, outa time. But what about my policy. Sorry, fair’s fair.

Cunliffe. Again thanking the R&R. Acknowledge hte fellow candidates.

I believe your trust has to be re-earend. A sacred trust, you give to you representative and party.

Firstly, nationwide issues around choices. Second: local issues.

This election is interesting. It started out like a game of beach cricket: give the other kid a go.  OK: what is the best answer: change TO WHAT?

Biggest economic crisis since 1930. We’re a small boat. Can be tossed. You need a good skipper, which we have with Helen and Michael. But he’s not proving it.

Skim milk prices down. Dollar down. IMF: global growth down 23% anticipated.

What are doing about it? Incomes per captiter post inflation are up a quarter.

Government deposit insurance, within 40 days of re-election.

You don’t cutcutcut in an economy. You must keep people in jobs, who can pay their bills. That means we bring forward infrstructure. Ensure no-one under 18 is without a job or training. Every NZ worker can get a re-traiing package.

Get students through without a mountain of debt.

He keeps saying “I’m proud of …” Good on him.

Human rights and decency in international relations. Proud of it.

Proud that our vision is a Green vision.  ETS. But what about fairness?

Cops, docks, trees, dogs and kids. That’s what the locals want.

Acknowledge the work in public transport. New Lynn. Going to re-tool bus routes.

The sub-station. I give you this commitment. I will spare no energy to ensure to the extent of my ability that that substation does not get built on the designated site. I’ve had a commitment they’ll move it and I’ll give them merry hell if they don’t.

Question time.

Are we having fun yet?

October 21, 2008

Why am I enjoying this election more than my National Party voting colleagues? I can only put it down to the notion that National people just don’t like politics. It’s true: democracy slows things down. National peole are always just itching to leap out of bed and start taking money off the rest of us. This cumbersome process, a gross approximation of consencus or mob rule, does have a life of its own. It would be so much easier to simply appoint John Key the benign ditator and let us all get on with the important stuff of printing a buck.

Good grief! Even when they’re the clear favourites to get the top podium finish in the election, they’re still not happy. “I’m sick of this election”, whined the colleague. “Too much talk. Not enough action. I like change.”

Just imagine what she’d be like if she was backing the underdog. Well, I suppose National people don’t back underdogs. That’s how you know they’re National people.

Anyway. At least there’s a real crisis afoot, but somehow I get the feelin that even if the economy wasn’t tacnking, all (or most) of the competing parties in the current election deserve credit for relieving the voters of the tedium of an election auction debate. That was really both very tedius and very irresponsible of National. Indeed, it revealed National as a single issue party.

What hurts most is – if National forms a government – how much they’ll forsake their own voters. The truth is that under National, there will be increased job losses, increased debt, decreased health, and increased wealth among people who already have it.

Get your hand off!

October 14, 2008

National will reduce employer contributions to KiwiSaver, and in all likelihood open up at least part of what’s remaining to be paid directly to the employer, rather than putting it into a KiwiSaver scheme.

National will also undo the hardwork of the Greens and Labour to install $1b worth of insulation in the houses of the poor.

So, working people in New Zealand will be spending more money on wasted consumables such as electricity and saving less, even as the population ages and personal debt sky rockets.

We simply can’t afford it.

Health

October 14, 2008

I thought the politician’s health debate on NatRad was about what you’d expect. Claims of past victories, accusations of past failures, and scaremongering of the future. Some assertions:

If the Labour government is tired, nobody seems to have told David Cunliffe, still less so Jim “I didn’t leave them, they left me” Anderton.  The guy knows exactly how to start out sounding calm and reasonable, then just at the end of his first sentence, inject a tone of holy injustice, gliding into a second clause of unbridled passion and righteous incourageability, and then push through the objections and moderations just in time to take breath and finish on “and THAT’S a fact!” or similar. He had me scared, and I was only listening on the radio, half a nation away.

I didn’t hear anyone berate Cunliffe for sacking the Hawkes Bay DHB. And he defended his gummint’s decision not to force Pharmac to extend the breast cancer drugs. His reason – reasonably – was that Pharmac are the experts, and non medically trained pollies have no place telling the experts how it should be. “Where” he asked “would that end?” Jim Anderton: “The day I go to Tony Ryall for medical advice will be the day we know there’s something really, really wrong.”

It is, indeed, extraordinary that Ryall, firmly entrenched in the hypocritical and two-faced “less is more” corner of the political arena, and who’s very own National Party introduced both the concept and the actuality of Pharmac last time they were in government, should now be advocating more political influence in that organisation.

It is however easy to explain: the National Party is shamelessly using the high public awareness and engagement in breast cancer to gain political leverage.

But it was Sue Kedgely of the Greens who was really making sense. She didn’t say a lot, so a bit more detail wouldn’t go amiss, but everytime she did say something, it had the tendancy to set the agenda for the next five minutes. Frequently, she defined the debate. And more than once, that message was: investment in primary, preventative health care saves you, me and everyone else a shed load of dosh.

The Greens have two problems that I can see. One is turning a large amount of moral support into votes. That another song. The other is the very thing that makes them good, which is that they’re holistic. And the difficulty with that is that either they can stray off topic, or they expose themselves to counter arguments which are similarly off target.

So when Sue K starts to talk abot primary health care, she’s not only talking abot preventative medicines, but also about preventative lifestyles. Exercise. Nutrition. While there was some badgering on budgeting from the cheap seats, it’s not a message any politician was capable of opposing with any degree of credibility.

$700b

October 6, 2008

How, you might ask, might dishing up all this money to failed businesses be of any use?

Markets, so we are told by those very same men and woman who have so royally fouled things up, are supposed to correct themselves. When – in New Zealand – a string of finance companies failed, did the government leap to their assistance? Why not? That would have been peanuts by comparison, even if you scaled the U.S. bail-out package down to an NZ economic scale: about 16 billion, or, roughly the entire personal tax take.

Maybe we should have. Maybe we should still.

So, what’s the difference? Is it a case socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor? Evidently.

I’ve looked in all the major dailies and the few economics blogs I can track down, and it’s all rather beyond me to tell the truth. And them. There are two things everyone seems to agree on. One, that nobody agrees on anything. Two, that the benefit this brings to the economy in general and poor, homeless bankrupts in particular is either impossible to understand or impossible to achieve, or both.

One surprising thing I haven’t found reference to. Who are the depositors in the failed banks? And why is the American government not worried about them? I would have thought that if the banks failed, the main problem would be the gazillions of dollars lost by the folks who steered cleared of high loan-value ratio mortgages and chipped away at savings accounts all their lives.

Extraordinarily, perusing the NYT, the Washington Post, and the Wall St Journal this morning delivered almost nothing. All far more concerned with Indecision 08.

This  and miles more from Huffington.

A right royal barrel of monkeys. A dog’s breakfast. A fuck up, from arse-hole to breakfast.

Thank god it’s them and not us.

Mass Debate

September 29, 2008

Hey, let’s debate the debate!

Russell Brown on Public Address has been unusually silent on Labour and National’s withdrawal from TV debates with minor parties. More surprising still, Laila Harre’s come out partially in favour. The rationale, according to her on Kiwi Blog is that because Labour and National are the parties most likely to form a government, therefore they are deserving of more air time than others.

Well, that hardly seems fair or democratic to me. Like, isn’t the idea of the election to give voters a chance to express who they want in government? Let’s do that, then whoever actually becomes the government, trust me, they’ll get their airtime.

It’s a surprising position considering her own background in small parties. And also considering her usually unflappably logical, rational identification of relevant factors in complex issues.

She also goes on to suggest two more debates, one each among the lefty parties and one among the righties. This – to me – is bordering on crackpot. I’m always the first to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, so it’s good to share the idea, but let’s can this one. For one thing, neither the Maoris nor the Greens are really very interested – at all – in left or right politics. And Dunne and Peters represent the single issue parties who are only interested in being in government, so they don’t easily align on the old spectrum either.

Leaving actual parties aside: what if your policy is that left and right is the wrong way to think about politics anyway? What if you believe policies on tax and government involvement are not defining absolutes, but incidental to greater issues, like: peak oil, climate change, pollution, bio-diversity, healthy food, quality health, transportation, revenue, justice … oh yeah, that would be the Greens.

Of course, and I hate to raise this because the trains getting near my stop, but there is the issue of where you draw the line. The Legalise Cannabis party for instance. The McGillicuddies. Every single independent. Nah, Nobody takes em seriously anyway. More on that tomorrow.

It begins

September 14, 2008

What can you say about a governing party that announces an election, and then lets the opposition beat it to the hoardings by a solid 24 hours?

Yes, the election was set last Friday for Nov 8. National’s hoardings started going up on Friday night and by lunchtime Saturday were everywhere. Someone told me that Paula Bennett (National MP in Waitakere) had breached some kind of regulation by actually getting her hoardings up too early (which presumably means before the elcetion was announced, or more than two months prior to the election) but evidently neither she – nor the person who told me about it – were sufficiently concerned to do anything about it.

You can tell how close Labour and National are by the similarity of their hoardings. The only difference is that John Key’s put himself all over his candidate’s hoardings, which sends a clear message to everyonbe not to expect any actual autonomy or responsibility from their locally elected National MP.

Unlike the big two parties’ solid colour and bold text, the Greens are there with beautiful imagery and interesting messaging. There’s no doubt that the Greens have a more interesting statement. The only error – and it’s a detail – is that while their coreflutes look like billboards, hoardings generally occupy less premium real estate than billboards. They’re lower to the ground and generally in moving traffic areas, rather than stationary ques at intersections etc.

Good on the Greens – and National – for beating Labour to the hoardings, at least around where I live. And to think we do it ourselves, while the bigger parties pay builders to do it. Capable. Still to see NZ First (“Yeah, right”), Maori, UF. From memory of past elections, Jim Anderton doesn’t even bother until about the week before. Given his lone-wolf strategy of going it alone from Sydenham, you sort of wonder why he bothers at all. Maybe it’s something about credibility. Wouldn’t have thought he’d have too much difficulty there.

Oh, that’s right. He’s the fishery minister who resisted New Zealand’s UN vote to block the mega-destructive practice of bottom-trawling.

Who cares?

September 10, 2008

We always new that Helen jumping into beddy-bies with Winston was never going to give anyone a really good night’s sleep. I’ve never cared for him, although he certainly had his day over the winebox affair, and a few other corruption scandals.

Public Address is right to waggle the finger at those who compare the media attention to a “gang rape”. That is uncalled for nastiness.

But since the general tone has been lowered, I’ll chip in with my analogy: Graeme Capill. Not that I’m fingering Winston with the same crime as the former Christian Heritage Party leader, just that he’s going down in the same way: by his own sword.

For Capill, it was about sexual morality. Winston’s always thrived by pointing out corruption in others. There you have it.

Or the 70s Mad magazine on watergate: “The president said he never did it. His men say they never did it. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe it never happened.”

Or the leutenant in the Platoon movie: “This gonna be a shit sandwich and everybody’s gonna take a bite.”

Except Peters, Glen, Williams and Clark are all sucking down teflon. But over the last 24 hours, where’s Rodney Hide suddenly vanished to? As for National, they don’t even need to make a peep. Christmas just came early this year.

Campaign

September 8, 2008

So, the Greens have entered the fray with their camapgin. What do you think?

My associations with it are: future focus, cleanliness, simplicity, accountability, serious and, on the negative side, it looks a little cold and slightly damp.

Still, miles better than the blue team’s, which seem to suffer from exactly the same problems that the Greens’ did last time: confusion and clutter. I think both the Greens’ and National’s 08 campaign suffer from a certain over investment in fear mongering.

Chris Trotter has been quoted as saying this Green campaign has the potential to deliver a 2% increase of vote share, which, when you’re in the little leage hovering around 5%, is a big deal. But one can’t help but wonder in these days of peak oil, infrastructure crisis and the consumer drive towards authenticity, that maybe they couldn’t have set their sights higher.

Still, at least one things clear: party vote Green.