Posts Tagged ‘John Key’

Cambpell on Key(nesian) economic policy

August 4, 2008

Gordon Campbell sums up National’s economic policy announcements very neatly — “‘Vote National: Mortgage Your Children’ was the message in a nutshell.”

I’ve already posted on this more than once, but Campbell adds some interesting angles. Here’s the crux of it:

“What this means is that the public/private partnerships that are the favoured format for delivering the Think Big projects that National has in mind will have to function to near perfection in order to fit within the extra 2% debt ratio parameters. This is unlikely. Why ? Because a Key government is also planning to cut back its regulatory oversight of the economy – just as the PPPs will need to be highly and competently regulated in order to save taxpayers from being rorted by their big business project partners. All up, something like a 25 % debt ratio seems a far more realistic figure in future This will add significantly – a billion a year, the Labour-Green supporting Standard website estimates – to debt servicing costs. In each successive year, such costs alone will create a chronic pressure to cut social services.”

So, while both parties are offering tax cuts, it’s National’s that are proligate, forcing us to borrow overseas to pay for them. And to “strip mine” state assets later, regardless of their performance.

We now know a great deal more about the privatisation part of the plan thanks to a National conference goer with a recorder.

Guess who suffers when National flogs off Kiwibank? Not hard to answer, of course. As Consumer New Zealand CEO Sue Chetwin points out: “Kiwibank mainly targets more modest or low income people but it has actually been very competitive in what it does.”

Chetwin thinks that Kiwibank plays a significant role in keeping mortgage rates down and has kept some of the bigger banks from closing their branches outside the cities. If Kiwibank was sold to an off-shore company, the internationally owned banks would have “an even more cosier relationship then they do now.”

As well National is also looking at private prisons and roads, and privatising water and waste water services.

All this so that “ordinary New Zealanders” earning $100,000+ can enjoy bigger tax cuts. And National’s ideological fringe doesn’t get so “angsty”.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the announced policies were going to fix the growth problem. As Campbell notes, “a striking omission from the Key/English vision statements was the lack of any programme to boost productivity – beyond cut taxes, borrow from foreign bankers to cover the shortfall, cross your fingers and hope.” (He seemed to miss the reference to higher productivity arising from more roads, but this would only be a short-term increase anyway.)

The only tracks are for fast-track consents

August 3, 2008

Spend more, tax less and all without borrowing more. Yeah right.

Welcome to the weird world of Keyonomics. But first, today’s news…

National promises to spend $5 billion more on infrastructure than Labour over the next six years: an extra $500 million a year on key infrastructure such as roads as well as the $1.5 billion broadband plan. We’ll get a 20-year “National Infrastructure Plan” and a Minister of Infrastructure too. (More bureaucrats? Surely not.)

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A flip-flop too far for Far-Right Fran

July 30, 2008

Fran O’Sullivan froths at National’s flip-flops in Granny this morning, wailing, “… it’s tempting to wonder if John Key is auditioning to be Helen Clark in drag.” In doing so she adds her voice to the chorus of far-right dismay at National’s “Labour-lite” cross-dressing.

She points to the essential problem that “all Labour’s flagship economic policies” (embraced by National), bigger tax cuts than Labour, no privatisations and no big borrowing won’t fit falling government revenue in a declining economy. Many others have also pointed to this problem.

But, thanks to her close links with the big business donors to the National Party, she is able to provide some insights into how National might conjur this fiscal trick:

“It would appear obvious – to those within the business elite who are privy to National’s plans – that Key and his finance spokesman Bill English plan to re-engineer the Government’s balance sheet so that a number of directly funded infrastructure programmes are shifted off-balance sheet to be funded through public-private partnerships and/or infrastructure bonds.”

The problem is, as she quickly admits, that there are serious time lags. It would take years for the fiscal benefits to flow through (never mind the quality of service issues which she ignores, of course). This might be a long term solution, but what about the short-term?

So the question remains, what — or who — is going to give?

O’Sullivan finishes with a general whinge about the lack of policy on offer. She says:

“As of right now there are few National policies on display that demonstrate the party that looks odds-on to claim the Government benches this year is thinking deeply about the economic environment it will inherit.”

We can only concur.

“The bland leading the bland”

July 29, 2008

Colin James in today’s Herald rues the caution and blandness that is the Leader of the Opposition today. He asks us to “consider John Key, the trader who used to back himself and made a whizz-bang fortune at it. Where has he gone?”

James suspects that this is the product of marketing. I’d say that it is out and out manipulation of the electorate.

More importantly, James ruminates on the tensions between the Labour-lite policies that we have seen in many areas and the vague promises of economic step-change and closing the gap with Australia. On the latter, apart from universal fast broadband all we have is an indication that National “will promise bigger science… Oh, and tax cuts and lighter regulation. And ‘ambition’.”

(In passing, I await the bigger science policy with interest, as this vital driver of growth has been neglected by governments of all stripes.)

James also reveals that in the major policy areas:

“… in behind the bland one-pagers lies quite a lot of study, consultation with outsiders and internal shadow cabinet debate. A 34-page paper backed the workplace relations one-pager. Law and order policy was well footnoted.”

Even Farrar agrees that the one-pagers we are being feed don’t provide enough detail. He says that 1 per cent of the population wants the detail, but doesn’t say who these people are. I’d say that it’s more than that, and includes the opinion leaders who many of the others will rely upon to look at the detail and pass judgement.

I’m really pleased to hear that there’s more work behind these policies than appears on the surface. But why then do so many important points in the workplace relations, arts and other policies beg clarification? Why, for example, did we have National’s broadcasting spokesperson confirming on media7 that funding for Maori TV and Radio NZ would be maintained?

And if you’re going to release stuff on one side of A4, why not have a press conference so that these things can be clarified on the spot?

If you have pretentions to running the country, then at least act professionally when it comes to releasing policy. At the moment it looks very amateurish, as well as bland.

Update (hat-tip The Standard): Seems that National doesn’t have detailed policy analysis to back up the scraps of paper we’ve been served up. (Why don’t they just hand over the envelopes with their policies on the back?) Colin Espiner reveals:

“Unfortunately, it appears James didn’t get it quite right – at least according to John Key’s office, which has just told me that there is NO 34-page policy document on industrial relations. It is, in fact, a 14-page document that simply backgrounds previous changes in industrial law, according to Key’s office.

Even Espiner, who features in The Hollow Men as probably the most enthusiastic messenger for the right in 2005, finds this galling:

“I’m unsure whether this is supposed to make me feel better or not. Personally I would have been happier to know that National had done more work in this area, even if it wouldn’t release it.”

One minute Key

July 27, 2008

The Herald’s unauthorised hagiography Pt2 came out yesterday. As a service to those who can’t get the paper, here’s what “The Man Who Would be PM” reveals:

Key: Alpha male, wants to be PM; no, true. Not much competition on his side. Knows something about finance. Is nice to girls in trouble (hmm) and wants to save world. No, true. Pretty pragmatic and will do whatever it takes.

In short, nice graphics, pity about the article. Almost nothing new or of any serious interest. Unless you think that a high-flying investment banking mate of Key’s coming back to help out is news.

Whatever Crosby-Textor are getting paid, they’ve earned it. Shame on you Herald.

What we fear from the Right

July 3, 2008

Looking at the right’s response to the revelations about Key’s courting Crosby/Textor — and denying it — it’s obvious they just don’t understand what’s wrong with deliberately selling a completely false bill of goods to the voters, and why the left fear their dirty tricks.

Take Adam at the Inquring Mind, for example. He suspects that “what has the left frothing with paranoia is that Crosby Textor are successful.”

No, Adam, it’s not. It’s the extent to which C/T— or the campaigns that they are associated with — go in spreading misinformation and lies. And the utter contempt for the voters and the democratic process that it betrays.

Many of us on the left have vivid memories of the hate-filled 1975 election, when National introduced us to blatantly rascist and anti-communist fear-mongering. On Labour’s side, Bill Rowling — a man of great personal integrity and decency — and the unsuspecting crowd of old school politicians had no adequate response to something that they could not fathom.

The dancing cossaks and brown brawlers that National treated us — along with a little gerry-mandering of boundaries — brought us nine years of Muldoonism. We lost the chance to have a properly funded superannuation scheme, amongst other things. (And it’s still not clear where National got the funding for the hugely expensive cartoons from Hanna-Barbera.)

Hence the concerns that underlie the EFA. You only have to look as far back as 2005 if you want to see an example of a party trying to con its way into power with lies, secret agendas and loads of secret money with lots of strings attached.

While the social democratic parties of the Anglo-American world are far from pure, overwhelmingly it is the rightists who specialise in dirty politics. They are led by the Republican Party in the US. Since Nixon the Republicans have been pioneering the dirtiest, most unscrupulous campaigning techniques seen since, well, the McCarthy era. Now, which party in NZ has the links with the Republicans?

The left fear that National and its little ally gladly use appalling Rovian tactics and in doing so undermine the democratic process. This is not paranoia.

It’s not seven years since Howard rode his way back into power across the Tasman on a wave of fear fuelled by a lie about refugees throwing their babies overboard in order to blackmail their way into Australia.

And just who was responsible for the rumours about Ken Livingstone having three secret children and hiring Muslim extremists, that so benefited the C/T-advised Boris Johnson campaign this year?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s push-polling, swift-boating or furtive smearing with rumour conducted at nudge, wink, arms-length distance from the official campaign. The left doesn’t want it here.

[Postscript: I don’t intend to comment on yesterday’s veents in Parliament, except to say that this post might help to explain where the Left is coming from. Is attack the best form of defence?]

What’s wrong with duping the voters with a totally false image?

June 29, 2008

Today’s SST report about Crosby/Textor’s role in the National camp is deeply disturbing, whatever spin the Tories try to put on it. The notorious Australian practitioners of the darkest political arts are still with us, doing their utmost to pervert the democratic process and sell us a false Bill of Goods, courtesy of John Key.

Despite attempts by Key and his team to keep their role secret, we find that C/T have been employed these last two years to shape Key’s image and advise on National’s messages and tactics.

The Nats’ will ask, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, true, it’s not illegal to employ spin doctors, and just about every political organisation that can afford to, does. The problem is with the tactics that are used and how far you go in spreading lies and deceipt, and hiding what you have on offer from the voters.

C/T are the ugliest, most ruthless, dirtiest-fighting political mongrels this side of Karl Rove. Of course it’s wrong. Otherwise, why would Key & co go to such lengths to hide their association with these people?

We’re not talking about air-brushing the leader’s picture here. It’s about appealing to basest prejudice, about constructing completely misleading images of opponents and clients… stuff like Textor’s push-polling. In 1995, for example, Canberra voters were asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for her knowing she had publicly stated she supported the right to abortion up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Which she hadn’t.

Or spreading false rumours about London mayor Ken Livingstone having three “secret” children and the hiring an Islamic extremist to his staff.

This is the sort of thing that National would have you believe is “business as usual” and acceptable. It’s not. And that’s why this revelation has the potential to damage “Brand Key”.

In terms that C/T would use, it opens up the doubt in many ordinary voters’ minds that Key isn’t the decent, aw-shucks (albeit mega-wealthy) bloke they thought they knew. Rather, he’s devious and unprincipled, the sort of man who stoops to hire liars and racists when he should be telling them to fuck off.

[There’s a good debate on this on the Standard. Also, Russell Brown at Hard News on the “sulphurous presence”.]

White man’s anger, fact-light debate & Key’s secret

June 29, 2008

Some thoughts on today’s crop of newspaper columns…

In HoS, Matt McCarten gives us a potted history of New Zealand/Aotearoa, in the vein of The Sixty-Minute Shakespeare. He sums up the period known to Maori as Te Riri Pakeha — white man’s anger:

“The settlers set up provincial governments and passed laws to take the land without their consent. When Maori protested, the settlers sent in volunteer armies to kill them and steal their land anyway. Once they’d stolen enough land to share among the members of the militia they pinched some more to sell to cover the expenses of their excursions. Many descendants of these criminals begrudge today modest compensation to the Maori descendants of the former landholders.”

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Not a vintage year for elections

April 14, 2008

Hey, I find I have a blog page all of my own. Although the “market” is way overcrowded, I’m tired of not being able to start the thread, so here goes.

Below I have extracted a response on kiwiblog by me to a question from one of the more thoughtful — there are a few — of the residents. He asked:

“The left seem so hate filled and desperate, Cullen’s recent comments and the uncalled for personal attacks (slippery John etc) are so unnecessary, why is it that the left are acting this way?”

This year’s shaping up as an unsavoury campaign, and it saddens me. Some thoughts…

It won’t be anywhere as near as hate-filled and vicious as 1975, when the full arsenal of rascist and anti-communist fear-mongering was deployed against a decent, unsuspecting crowd of old school politicians — Bill Rowling had great personal integrity — by a real swine. But it’s little solace to know that things have been worse.

I’m not about to try and defend the EFA (you may have noticed), which I have some doubts about as a practical measure. But I can certainly understand the concerns that underlie it. I’m sorry, you can dismiss “the Hollow Men” all you like, but I haven’t seen anybody being sued for defamation. Plenty of threats, I understand, from attack lawyers. If you want to see a real example of a government trying to con its way into power with lies and secret money with lots of strings attached, you only have to look as far back as 2005.

Finally, I would note that, while the Democrats’ hands are far from clean, it is the Republican Party in the US that [edit: since Nixon] has been pioneering the dirtiest, most unscrupulous campaigning techniques seen since, er, the McCarthy era. That evil genius Karl Rove has a lot to answer for. Now, which party in NZ has the links with the Republicans?

You have to understand that if there is fear on my side of the fence, it is fear that people on your side will stoop to use Rovian tactics to which they will not be able to respond. Just like 1975 in NZ, recent Australian elections (babies overboard?), and recent US elections, to list just a few of the more salient examples.