Speaking English badly

In a desperate bid for “Understatement of the Year”, Bill English fesses up that, “I didn’t choose my words well.”

As we know, English was recorded clandestinely at the Nats’ Conference on the weekend telling an anxious delegate that the party would flog off Kiwibank “eventually”, and that neither Don Brash or John Key fully understood the tax implications of Working for Families. Last night, on TVNZ, he failed to confirm that Key does understand WfF. Repeatedly.

Now he has issued a statement that:

  • “With respect to Kiwibank, I shouldn’t have made the comments I made. National has had no discussions about Kiwibank and has no plans to sell it.”
  • “Comments I made regarding the complexity of WFF have been construed as criticism of John Key. That is wrong. My repeated responses to this question yesterday reflected my determination not to widen the debate – not an attempt to criticise John Key.”

The Standard has called this a “meltdown“, debacle, major scandal, and so on. It looks more like the sort of loose talk that you might get at a party conference where things are said that wouldn’t be said in public.

It confirms that the Nats do indeed intend to sell off Kiwibank, and undoubtedly many other things as well. If they’re going to have to legislate to do so, as Key confirmed on the weekend, the list of things to be privatised or privately provided includes prisons, roads, water and waste water services. Kiwibank and the like is for the second term.

There’s no denying this now, really.

One really interesting point that everybody seems to have overlooked is the identity of the man who recorded the conversation with English. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it looks like yet another inside job.


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7 Responses to “Speaking English badly”

  1. homepaddock Says:

    National has always been quite clear that the policy is to sell no state assets this term if they are in government and that if they want to sell any in a second term that will be made clear before the next election and they will campaign on that then.

  2. sconehead Says:

    Who on earth does not understand Working for Families?

    It’s about creating a nation of mostly state-dependent families. Simple. And mad.

  3. jafapete Says:

    Homepaddock, I do say that Kiwibank is a second-term project.

    But, as John Armstrong says,

    “In its resulting haste to shut things down, National has spouted no less than five stances on the bank’s future ownership – National has no plans to sell Kiwibank, National will eventually sell Kiwibank, National will not sell Kiwibank, National is unlikely to sell Kiwibank, National will not sell Kiwibank in its first term in government.”

    Welcome back Sconehead.

  4. macdoctor01 Says:

    Sconehead: The hard bit is coming up with a decent alternative tax structure that does not make people worse off, if WFF is removed. WFF is centered (bizarrely) around how many children you have and is actually quite complex to administer, creating massive “churn”. Substituting a simple tax structure will make many mid-income families with a lot of children substantially worse off. You can counteract this to some extent by increasing the child rebate, but this exacerbates the problem of giving unnecessary rebates to people who are high-income earners.

  5. macdoctor01 Says:

    JP: Armstrong is full of nonsense. The position is simple and is exactly as homepaddock portrayed – no sale this term but possibly later. It’s clear that it has not been discussed in the national caucus formally. Bill is obviously of the opinion that it might need to be sold eventually, but appears to be making a profit at the moment (though that may be because of blurred lines between Kiwibank and NZPost).

    There is nothing sinister and there are no hidden agendas and no confusion except that generated by media (looking for a story) and Labour (looking for some traction in the polls)

    MacDoc, Yeah, I was just being mischievous replaying that bit by Armstrong. I’m prepared to accept that they’ve put off privatising Kiwibank until a second term (assuming they win this time). But we need more detail about the terms of the PPPs and where they will be used in this term.

  6. sconehead Says:


    Again, I can’t see what the difficulty is in taxing the genuinely rich (many NZers either worship or claim to be amongst the rich) and giving it to the genuinely needy. Then add in a factor for family size.

    At the same time, from the other end so to speak, we could do some work on dealing with abusers of the welfare system.

  7. sconehead Says:

    On the subject of Kiwibank… if the Nats do sell it to, say, some Aussie banking monster then that settles it – I’ll migrate to Australia. (That’ll show ’em)

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