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Celebrating this weekend: the achievements of the National Government

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This weekend, National Party members are gathering in Auckland for their annual conference. They will be celebrating their success as they go into the second year of their second term, and plotting for another electoral victory come November-ish 2014.

With this in mind, it is worth looking over the stunning achievements of Key’s National Government.

Eviscerating workers rights and smashing unions

Finishing off organised labour for good is really the cornerstone of the National Party’s agenda. What started with the hated Employment Contracts Act back in 1991 has continued with the ’90-day bill’ that has given employers an almost unbounded ability to fire employees within a 90-day trial period.

Along with increasing the precariousness of work, access to workplaces by union organisers now requires the permission of management. The Department of Labour says, ‘If the employer denies consent but does not provide reasons in writing for the refusal or unreasonably withholds consent, the employer could be subject to a financial penalty imposed by the Employment Relations Authority’ – ‘could be’ ‘financial penalty’ – that sounds really likely to enforce the compliance of an employer who sees great benefit in getting a union of their premises permanently.  Five years after the passage of the ECA, union membership had been halved. This government has come to finish what Ruth Richardson started.

The Nats also want to remove the legal duty to conclude collective bargaining, punish workers who are engaged in strike or partial strike activities (including paying them less than the minimum wage), and removes the automatic coverage of new employees on the same terms and conditions within their first 30-days on a job.

These specific legislative actions work in conjunctions with the Nats ‘do nothing’ jobs strategy ensuring high unemployment and thus a low wage economy. Nearly every week, we hear news of another round of redundancies at what remains of the once vibrant manufacturing sector.

Bashing beneficiaries

Along with smashing the working class, one of the other favourite activities of the National Party is beneficiary bashing. Massive changes to the benefit system have already been introduced, and these will continue as long as there remains any ‘welfare’ system at all.

Changes to the benefit are not, of course, linked to any real ideas about jobs or work or caring for people who are unable to do so. Rather, they are part of an ideology where the state’s role is reduced as much as possible (to protecting private property, providing corporate welfare and making war to expand capital markets).

It is as if all of the dumb ideas that haven’t worked elsewhere are being given a second go here to really f*ck things up. Included in this mix are: forcing mothers into work-testing within 1 year of the birth of a baby, forcing people on a sickness benefit into a work-tested benefit, forcing solo mums into a work-tested benefit, drug testing of beneficiaries, contraceptive ‘advice’ being proffered by work and income staff, using a ‘payment card’ system so that benefits can only be obtained at specific suppliers, and micro-managing youth benefits. That is just to name a few!

Destroying the planet

Hardly far behind on the National Party’s list of greatest highs are its plans for desecrating the natural environment and continuing a long history of doing less than nothing about climate change.

The granting of widespread mining, drilling and fracking permits now includes exploration permits on Stewart Island. Greenpeace made a statement today that the number of permits was so extensive that despite their best efforts, they were unable to map out all of the exploration and drilling now going on in Aotearoa.

Along with oil and natural gas, the Nats are keen to see the completion of a ridiculous and dangerous plan by Solid Energy to develop Southland lignite. Coal Action Network says, ‘Solid Energy is currently investigating several options for converting its lignite resources in Southland (estimated at 1.35 billion tonnes) to energy forms and products. This includes developing a lignite-briquetting plant, a lignite to diesel plant, and assessing the viability of a lignite-to-urea plant with Ravensdown.” The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says the whole things makes ‘no sense’ and that taxpayers will end up subsidising (more) activities that contribute to climate change. “Building just one lignite-to-diesel conversion plant would increase the annual greenhouse gas emissions gap between the commitment and where the gas emissions were heading by 20%.”

The farming elite have always had a very special place in the National Party, and that continues with the government’s complete and utter unwillingness to do anything about dairy effluent. The country’s waterways are full of sh*t and they just keep on polluting like there is no tomorrow. Just within the last month, Key et al have done dairy one better by extending out their exclusion from the less-than-desirable Emissions Trading Scheme for an unknown period of time. Instead of wanting to be ‘tidy kiwis’ or ‘punch above our weight’ as many a clichéd commentator have banged on about, New Zealand’s positions on dairy and climate change have been less than nothing – they are steps backwards.

There is a very long list of environmental atrocities being carried out right under our noses, but the state of the Maui dolphins has to be one of the most heartbreaking. There are only an estimated 55 of these amazing mammals LEFT ALIVE ON EARTH. And they live here in the waters of Aotearoa. If they go extinct, which they almost certainly will, it will be the lack of effective action to ban the nets and fishing that kills them. Special thanks go to Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Conservation for that one!

Propping up the Yanks imperial wars and signing up to fight more of them

In case you missed the barrage of propaganda rolling out from the US Embassy, the Marines were here last month. And what a successful mission it was! Along with some war-gaming at Waiouru that was done up to look like a certain unnamed central Asian country where certain unnamed turban-wearing ‘enemies’ lurked, the Yanks and their pro-war mates here had fun re-writing a bit of World War II history. This time, the Yanks were all loved by the people of New Zealand who welcomed them with open arms and didn’t resent them at all. The Marine Corp managed not to go on any shooting rampages where they kill innocent civilians – remarkable restraint, eh? and surely a testament to their enduring value as protectors of ‘our freedoms’.

At the same time, the new ‘Washington Declaration’ was signed – following on from the ‘Wellington Declaration’ – cementing the ANZUS ties, and ensuring that the NZSAS will be available for America’s next war.

Selling off assets they don’t own

One of the great things that capitalists do around the world is make money from things they didn’t produce and/or don’t own. In this case, the Nats are preparing to sell off state-owned energy companies whose major productive component is water. Three of the four state owned energy companies that are slated for sale are major producers of hydro-electricity.

Despite very well-documented evidence supporting Maori claims to freshwater, John Key continues his ‘No one owns the water’ refrain. Tapu Misa from the New Zealand Herald coyly noted, ‘What a quaint communist idea, Mr Key – no one owns the water. How is it that private interest is going to make a profit from it then?’

The agenda of asset sales is hardly limited to these four companies. The privatisation agenda is in full swing in the form of ‘PPPs’ – public private partnerships in which private companies get to extort money out of the state for assets they ‘manage’ on our behalf.  In Britain, these economic arrangements have in some cases cost 12x what a fully state-funded project would have cost.

In South Auckland, Serco continues to build a brand new men’s prison that we don’t need despite their utter incompetence in running Auckland Central Remand at a price tag of $900 million.

Rights for international investors, not ordinary people

One shift that the Nats are happy make happen is removing rights from ordinary people – like the right to silence and the right against unreasonable search and seizure – while increasing the rights of corporations under international trade treaties.

The Nats swung into action to pass a bill retrospecitvely legalising covert video surveillance when the coppers said all these ‘bad people’ were going to get away, and then ensured that the Search and Surveillance bill was ready to go once the sunset clause on the latter ran out. Ridiculous claims by police were accepted at face value by a political party with plenty of ex-cops on the payroll.

Rights for international investors, on the other hand,  will be significantly enhanced with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) – a trade treaty that includes the worst of all possible contract provisions. It allows corporations the rights to sue governments for doing things like protecting the environment or paying for medicines for the poor – anything that stands in the way of corporate profit will be reasonable grounds for a lawsuit.

The list of achievements is long

The past four years of the National Party’s reign is hard to sum up quickly; there is so much destruction and carnage. Along with the wide policy areas above, we shouldn’t forget Key’s special role in reneging on the deal to return Te Urewera to Tuhoe. In the week before an ‘Agreement in Principle’ was to be signed between Tuhoe leaders and Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson, Key met up with some of his party supporters who said ‘that’s a step too far, John.’ And so he pulled the plug and left Tuhoe again waiting perhaps another hundred years for justice.

We shouldn’t forget the students whose ability to access an education has been signficantly stymied by cuts to student allowance to the point where finishing an undergraduate degree will not only require accumulating crippling debt, but will also require students to work through their entire time studying. Student debt is over $10 billion now and grows every single second.

And finally, let’s not forget National’s favourite thing in the world - tax cuts for the rich! As I wrote a check last month for tax owed on my less than $10,000 worth of income for the past financial year, I felt an all to familiar feeling in my heart: rage.

Comments

To bad the Nats don't see far enough to win the world.

Just imagine if the Western Imperialist Camp ended it War machine and its manufactury, there would be more than twelve trillion dollars freed up for organic food, clothing, housing, medicare, education, and all necessities to make a solidarity with the living ecological web-of-life just a joy for living again.  Such a program would stop the aggressive wars and pollution that is destroying the living world in front of our noses.  With twelve trillions for social programs there is enough for every one on the planet to have a life worth living.  Workers of the world, unite!!  End pollution wars, not endless wars for more and more pollution.  You yet have a world to win!!

For those of you who know National supporters

Hi folks I'm down in Christchurch and I'm a member of the University of Canterbury Political Society. One spooky thing is that we have SMART people in the political society who VOTE (and campaign) for National (I don't know why they do it). The National Party is a joke - even with asset sales we're still set to incur RECORD BREAKING LEVELS OF DEBT by 2015.

John Key said that New Zealand will be out of debt and back into surplus by 2015, but that isn’t true. New Zealand is forecast to have record-breaking levels of debt by 2015, even with asset sales revenue.

The National Party is a bunch of inefficient slobs who create debt and cause all the aforementioned problems. Only an idiot with a borderline IQ would think that National is anything BUT a big spending party.

http://jeff-mitchell-new-zealand.tumblr.com/post/28164746351/john-key-statement-debt

I'm a member of the Libertarianz Party and from my perspective: people on the left need to talk about money issues when conversing with people on the right. Please read my blog post for info on our debt situation.

It's important to note that National is only millimetres away from being a centrist party. Any "right winger" who votes National should be a shamed because National is big-spending party which pretends to be really intelligent. John Key often talks about how he's "good for the economy". He knows that 99% of people are ignorant about politics so he talks about things in terms of how "good" they are. By simply using the words "good" and "economy" in the same sentence, he has already convinced his brain-addled constituents that he's doing an acceptable job of being Prime Minister.

Consider this statement from Gerry Brownlee's office, which I received yesterday:

The Government would be doing a disservice to New Zealanders not to acknowledge and address the current economic situation. It is worldwide and New Zealand is not immune in any way. The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and is forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016. Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion. Our total investment liability, which covers both public and private liabilities, is $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.

Some people have said that selling assets (and changing nothing else) is a great way to reduce debt, errr well no it isn't - not if you continue to spend beyond your means! Asset sales to reduce debt? Pure bullshit fed to yuppies who want to feel all manly and right wing, sorry folks but John Key is really no better than a criminal. John Key spends our tax money on police informants so that the government can spy on opposition groups. You thought Vladimir Putin was bad? John Key is worse.

Wait until we end up like Greece. I bet National won't be celebrating when we're begging other countries to bail us out.

National Party led government, Libertarianism and asset sales

Ohh, now Libertarianz are against asset sales, I hear!?

 

What a surprise, I thought that your ideological philosophy would consist of getting the state out of the running  of any enterprise like a state owned one is.

 

The government is indeed run by incompetent, ideology driven, self serving and certain business lobby pleasing idiots. That is not new at all. But their spending is not out of control as you state, indeed we see them cutting down in public services to cut and control costs, which at the same time also affects adversely services to the public.

 

Money matters are indeed on the mind of left or alternative thinking people, and the fact that the National led government introduced tax cuts and changes that ultimately favoured high income earners and wealthy and disadvantaged the low income earners and poor, that leading to shortfalls in the tax take, that is a scandal.

 

NZ has the lowest or at least second lowest top income tax rate amongst OECD countries, the most favourable "business environment", so asset and income rich people are winning big despite of low growth and almost recession in this country.

 

Also do property owners ruthlessly exploit the difficult housing market for prospective buyers and renters in much of Auckland and Christchurch, by demanding prices and rents very few can afford.

 

Huge amounts of money are spent on expensive roading projects, while public transport is underdeveloped. Construction is only doing well in Christchurch and Canterbury, and the often praised warming home policy to insulate housing (whether Housing NZ or privately owned stock) is a bit of a joke, as the coverings underneath floorboords and padding above sealings only increases moderately the "warmth" of homes, while crappy walls and windows still leak most heat.

 

I do not want to start on the leaky home scandal, which resulted in billions flushed down the toilet, which was at least in large part caused by National led governments lowering building standards in the 1990s.

 

Add bailing out some finance companies to the tune of millions and billions, and the picture becomes clear, about how poorly managed NZ is.

 

By the way nothing will improve without job and income creation, better payment for productive work and thus putting money into working people's hands. The continued wealth distribution from bottom to the top is not good economics.

 

Asset sales is stupid, as it hands over revenue earning shares in strategic businesses to a few investors, who will use dividend income for their own chosen spending, rather than putting it in new, further investments to grow the alternative energy generation sector. It is a quick fix to fill a few holes, which will only lead to further sales down the road, as the other issues are not addressed.

 

NZ's debt problem is largely a private debt problem, while the state has a comparatively little problem there, when compared internationally. NZers spend too much on property (prices driven up due to shortage and speculation by investors and buyers and sellers), private motor cars, fossil fuels and imports even products that could and should be made locally.

 

Dumb economic, really.

 

So what is your solution by the way, I only read an attack on National and little else?

Lol no I'm not against asset

Lol no I'm not against asset sales, in fact, I schooled one of your petitioners earlier this month! He was running a petition which was essentially BEGGING National to please not sell the assets. I told the guy that I'd give him $100 if he set up a community trust in the Ilam electorate, which could then "buy" the shares from the government (the $100 would go into a community stake). I then said that National doesn't care about the asset sales campaign and that if we buy the assets from the government then foreign ownership won't be a problem (guaranteed). The fact is that National is going to sell the assets so we may as well just buy them for security purposes.

In essence, what I said in my previous post was that National's motive for asset sales is stupid: the idea in principal is not bad and I do support it, but the way National portrayed it was fantasy: "it'll reduce debt and maybe-quite-possibly get us back to surplus". That suggestion is ridiculous, and National is feeding us disinformation. Nobody should be using false information as their primary argument.

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If New Zealand' debt problem is almost entirely private then we'll just let those companies die. Who cares? I don't have shares in any company so why would I give a crap if a company has massive liabilities? :D haha

I don't want to respond to everything you've said because I don't know anything about roading projects and stuff, but one thing I want to get at is solutions. Politics is contentious so I won't offer you a philosophy-based solution. I'll just say that I believe in the power of individual people making the right decisions.

I've said before that I'm a member of UC Pols (facebook.com/ucpols). Now THAT is an excellent venue for educating people! New Zealand has so many citizens who are eager to change the political system but none of us will ever get a voice unless we harness the support of the apathetic masses - and getting support from people will only come through persuasion. The best solution I can come up with is this: everybody get out there and aggressively campaign on your key ideas, and we'll see who's ideas get put into the statute books.

Everything counts: voting in bi-elections counts, writing letters to the editor counts, arguing with people on the street counts. I've written to my local paper before, accusing National and Labour of having "no real ideas". I openly encourage people NOT to vote for National and Labour, because they're the worst political parties in New Zealand. I do everything to challenge people to think about what's required for a better country.

Right now I'm studying part time. When I get a steady supply of money again I'm going to donate to Sallies, the City Mission and who knows what else. Recently I spoke to a girl who had her benefit cut because she started a course. WINZ asked her a question and she said "I'm studying full time". WINZ then said raaaa blaa blaahhh you can't get the unemployment benefit if you're on a course... well you can, but only if it's an "approved" course. This girl had her benefit cut without warning and she would've starved to death if it weren't for Sallies - and guess what, Sallies is not government funded - it's voluntarily funded by the community! All the nice things you'd expect from the loving government, provided by the local Christchurch community (OMG generosity doesn't need to be enforced by the IRD - amazing).

If I wasn't a libertarian then I wouldn't understand why we need private charity, nor would I understand how crooked and backwards Work And Income is. I'm all for empowering people (in my personal life/the real world). I believe that my contribution and knowledge is important and helpful to people, regardless of my political affiliation. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing.

Anyway that's my 2 cents - I encourage people to get involved in politics, and I encourage people to do useful things.

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By the way, some of you socialist people are really uptight and I think you all need to compromise more often. I'm a vegetarian and last year I was looking for a vegetarian-friendly flat. I found one, but as soon as I enquired I got this horrible response: it turns out the flat-owner was a socialist. The horrors didn't stop there. She also spied on my Facebook page to find my party affiliation, and she rejected me on that basis. If an prospective employer spied on my Facebook page and denied me a job based on marital status, sexual orientation or race then I could take it to court. Anyway, this socialist woman thought it'd be a great idea to spy on my Facebook page and then reject me because of politics - and that's just sad. I'd sleep with a socialist woman, but on the other hand, a socialist woman won't have me as a flatmate! This is why some people on the left suck at activism: some of your members are uptight and unwilling to compromise, plus you're terrible at subversion.

Your post, re asset sales, policies and sundry matters

Well, thanks for coming clear and clean on that one - namely asset sales being good or bad from your view.

I think it is absurd to suggest setting up a trust to buy shares in enterprises, which throught he state (representing the people of NZ so to say) are owned by the public as a whole anyway. Why should I pay for the property that gets taken off me without my consent? It is like paying the thief for returning my property. Bizarre that position!

Private debt is not just created by business and companies in private ownership, indeed most private debt is debt by private property investors in their own homes, debt used to purchase consumer products that private persons want to have and own, before they have earned the money to pay for it. Naturally banks do just fine, running their lending business and earning good interest for that (fiat money).

By the way: I respect people standing for their positions and taking action, and communicating via various means and channels to create needed debate.

I agree that WINZ is designed to handle clients in a rather mean spirited way, which is the result of having to "budget" within limits, but also due to the political leadership under which they must operate. Well, as much as I respect private social services, they will never replace and recompensate the state services, if they were abolished. We would have people live in the streets, under bridges and in parks, in much greater numbers than already.

The US is a bad example of cutting back, outsourcing and privatising welfare for those in true need, but I presume you would consider them to be too "socialist" also.

Who pays you while you are volunteering for the Sallies by the way?

When it comes to flatting and renting rooms, I presume it is as important to get a fair deal re rent or board, as it is to live with people you can get on with. Would you like a socialist constantly remind you of their views and ideas, while you may be trying to convince them to see things your way? Debates and challenges have their place, but when living with other people, you want debate free times and spaces, especially in your home. So if you view that as being "uptight", then maybe you are being a bit pre judgmental, because some individuals have sensitivities, same as you will have.

 

Thanks for replying though, your views and comments have been acknowledged.