Is John Key the Real Heir to Muldoon?

Power has apparently gone to John Key’s head.  Nothing exemplifies this better than his initiation of a witch-hunt against the public servant allegedly responsible for the mishandling of the case of of the Malaysian diplomat accused of sexual assault.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 18.53.28In consequence there is now a second victim, coincidentally a woman, and that is  the public servant.  Silence is her only option.  The Prime Minister has effectively called for her to resign.  That is constructive dismissal.   He has exposed her to trial by public opinion.  That flouts our employment laws and her  right to natural justice.   His words were:  “Justice should be undertaken in New Zealand through our legal process, not offshore.  If that person doesn’t have clarity about that position, then they ought to think very strongly about their exact position”.   Within 24 hours of his ‘assault’ on her competence, she was named in the media.  How her name was obtained was not explained.

Only this morning, I was pleased to find that the Public Service Association had issued a statement pointing out that Key’s comments breach the Cabinet Manual and the State Sector Act.   No big headlines however.

The Prime Minister’s call for an inquiry to be headed by John Allen, the head of Mfat, is ludicrous.

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Funny Old White Men & Internet-Mana

Where do funny old white men come from?   Caves?  (Sorry, I’m trying to belatedly improve my speed of smart response so I can be as funny as a man). I know where some funny (in the funny peculiar sense) old white men are nestling nowadays – in Granny Herald’s commentary coop, namely Bob Jones and Rodney Hide.

9o7n6Another nestles in an armchair close to hand and used to enjoy reading out Jones’ comments in the old Dominion.  I guess Bob was funny some of the time but  one very bad morning he got stuck into the Māori welcome ceremony.   So backward.  “Huzzah” shouted my mate. That released a torrent of adrenalin into my brain.  “Where do you think ceremonies involving gun toting soldiers came from?”  I brilliantly responded.  “Foreign ambassadors and local bodyguards go hand in hand in history.  Popping a large knife under a cloak and into your host could do quite a bit of damage, political and personal.   Ambassadors even took along food tasters in case mine host popped poison into them.”  Or somesuch.

Later, or maybe earlier, witty  Bob accepted a knighthood and overlooked its mediaeval trappings.   I presume he knelt, got smitten with a sword in a ceremony straight out of Ivanhoe, a slightly  fanciful tale with jousts galore written by Sir Walter Scott in 1820.  In the not very good film the knight hero was played by handsomish Robert Taylor who was getting on, had a remarkable widow’s peak and a wooden acting style.  Elizabeth Taylor was the lovely persecuted Jewess and second fiddle heroine.   The first fiddle didn’t rate but got the man.

Another occasion of brilliance which led my son to christen me Cousin Zelda after I joined the ‘boys’ to watch afternoon sport on TV.  (Too old to garden in rain and a penchant for crashing down slimy steps).  My first response to the action was “great thighs”.  Following the stunned silence I got into the spirit of things and yelled ‘miss the goal,  drop the ball, send him off etc’ in support of thighs’ team, and had unexpected success. My powers have weakened and the thighs vanished but my unpatriotic sense of fair play still finds some favour with the gods.

My latest vision came after seeing Laila Harre looking very elegant indeed on television about a week before the announcement of the Internet Mana party.  I wondered if she was be thinking of standing as an independent MP in Epsom.  I thought that would be fun.

Which brings me back to Hyde and Jones: both succumbed to a lack of originality and no little bile in regard to Internet-Mana in this week’s columns.  I rarely read their efforts but something out there said I must.  Hyde got stuck into Laila Harre.    She had been bought by Dotcom.   Keep up old man, Laila told all, detailed her comfortable financial position and said money had not been discussed.   It has been decided that candidates would be paid at backbencher rates.  Old Bob chose John Minto as his main target.    Both men nearly choked on their harrumphs.

Curiously it is the money issue that appears to obsess National devotees.  Lefties are more bothered by the political principles involved.   I’m delighted with my own swift adaptation (no money involved) to accepting Mana’s strategy.   A strategic roadblock has been exploited by National.  Internet-Mana decides to try the same ploy and prissy Tories cry foul!!   Internet Mana has announced support for abolition of the coat-tail clause as part of its policy.  Has anybody heard National hollering with joy and pinching this policy too?

And not quite on the subject did you see the blonde TV1 newsreader  turned vampire frenziedly salivating for Cunliffe’s blood last night?  What should have been a question – was he advocating for Liu’s citzenship wayback – was put as a fact.   Maurice Williamson went down for this.   Well, no, he didn’t.  He went down for ringing the police on Li’s behalf when he was a Minister not a backbencher.  Quite a different constitutional position.

Cunliffe doesn’t learn from his mistakes.   Or have Key’s smarts.  Hey man, National’s pinched your policies so why not appropriate his brain fades?   Many of us need to learn to preface events we rely on memory to describe with the words ‘I think’.   Me too, please note.

I had a quick glance at Seven Sharp and was transfixed by Mike Hosking’s messianic injunction  to exercise my choice and get rid of Cunliffe.    I missed the gloves off stage.  Sounds just like the State of Origin league match later where it was all on in the first half but, as the commentators lamented, no football.  Do TV1′s front people need to take a lesson from sports commentators in non-partisanship?   Oh how the world is changing!

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Papal Inanities and our Worshipful Media

I thought I had moved on from raving about Popes and their unforgivable attitudes to women’s sexuality.   Then this current one whose style and thinking had won some favour with the media lets loose about how couples who chose not to have children but have a cat will be lonely and bitter in their old age.   If women enjoy sex without giving birth look what they will bring down on men!

Does our media demonstrate some socio-political bias against childless women in particular when it runs this sort of claptrap?  Why weren’t reporters on the phone to the Catholic Archbishop seeking more elucidation.  A supine media response may reinforce harmful views about women and their sexuality.   They are not fulfilling their proper role.   Remember the Roastbusters,  our local shame?  And internet trolls?  We need to teach empathy and respect for women?   Well it won’t come while such diatribes, open to ridicule as they are, flow unchallenged from priestly palaces and pulpits.

What blithering vacuity of life experience inspired this papal insight?  The wilful ignorance of backstreet abortion in Catholic countries?   The deplorable attitude to marital rape that holds married people are in such a blessed and blissful union no wife would deny a husband sex?   The blindness to abusive priests to avoid bringing scandal on the church?   Some papal comments seemed to imply the silence was sacrificial!

What about the cruelty of denying  of a godly burial to the children of unwed mothers, the numbers of which appear to have been much higher under the care of nuns over the centuries.  Ireland now has to face the mass grave of 800 babies and young children in the 1950s.    I have a flickering memory of the neonatal death rate being in the order of 100%  in France under their care in the previous century.  Surely not.   But high it certainly was.  This is not to say Protestant history is clear of some of the same taint and ugly  abuses.

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Mana Internet: Wow, What a Deal!

As soon as I heard Laila Harre was to head the Mana Internet party adrenalin kickstarted my now less emotive mind into asking itself itself  who is going to be voting for Mana Internet around here.  I guess it will have to be him indoors.*   He lacks the political  junkie gene and is more flexible on this sort of thing.  Later I rang helpful son (who has the political gene) to check on his response and that household had already  agreed on the same strategy!

The deal between Mana and Internet is amazing and in case you missed another major plus ends six weeks after the election.  So it is nowhere near as cynical as I feared.   It’s  two-fingered “You  asked for it” to National and Act (I hope a huge one) and a wee cannonball across Labour and Green bows.

Pity the Epsom clause (riding on the coat tails of one electorate MP) wasn’t gotten rid of when National had the chance hey?   Dare I suggest that the two main parties need to treat the public with more courtesy?   Labour’s response to the Greens’ questions about working together during the campaign was harsh even if the Greens approach was injudicious.  And both these parties seem to be wobbling more on social issues or just lacking the skills and teeth  to do their jobs properly.


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*  “err indoors” is the reference to George Cole’s wife in TV series Minder (Dennis Waterman was Minder).  ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ is the reference to Rumpole’s wife in the Rumpole series.   Too lovely to lose!

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The Asylum Seekers are Coming (& the Fish was THIS Big)

So, according to the Sunday Star Times, we’re up to three attempts in recent months by asylum seekers to get to New Zealand by boat. Well, sure, no boats have apparently even touched the water in these three “attempts”, and no people have actually climbed aboard these boats. But as the SST breathlessly explains, New

Images from a Splitz Enz video of their hit "6 Months in a Leaky Boat", which is here:

Images from a Splitz Enz video of their hit “6 Months in a Leaky Boat”, which is here:

Zealand is being “talked up by people smugglers as a destination”.   This scaremongering over nothing-actually-happening is embarrassing, shameful and, well, ridiculous. What’s more, it’s based on a pretty huge and glaring contradiction: The very same people smugglers who are on the one hand excoriated for their dishonesty and trickery are, on the other, apparently reliable enough sources when it comes to their plans for shipping people to New Zealand.  So, which is it?

I’m not saying the broader story of mass migration and asylum seeking – which is Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 16.21.22going to worsen hugely in the face of climate change – isn’t an important one. It absolutely is. But there are ways of telling it that aren’t designed to play into our xenophobic tendencies. Last year, for example, the New York Times Magazine ran a long reported piece titled The Dream Boat about people smuggling through Indonesia (The link is here, but it may be behind a pay wall). It was an impressive piece of work that, not surprisingly, didn’t mention Destination New Zealand once.

That’s probably because, as our very own ambassador to Indonesia was quoted as Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 16.22.27saying in the SST piece (yes, way down toward the end of the story):  “The only time I can think of that someone got from Indonesia to New Zealand in a leaky boat was Abel Tasman back in 1642 and it took him six months. … The boats these people-smugglers are using are mainly wooden, small, they’re not ocean fit and they’re overcrowded . . . it’s a pipe dream that they’re going to be able to get to New Zealand.” He says it’s just part of the smugglers’ marketing strategy.

But the story clearly played right into the hands of the Prime Minister, who Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 16.23.09responded pretty eagerly to the “revelations”, as the SST called them. Yes, he said, “it’s confirmation of what we see through our intelligence reporting which is that New Zealand is a location that’s been talked about.” Again, no actual voyaging going on here, but well, we are being “talked about”. What’s more, Key says, “it’s probably likely that New Zealand is moving up the list of desirable locations now.” Yes, it’s very definitely “probably likely”.

Can you imagine the feeding frenzy if any people do actually make it the 4,000 km Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 16.24.43in a leaky boat (cue Split Enz) it would take to get here? A full-scale invasion. Call the Navy, um, the two frigates. The Orions. The citizen militia. Can we not get a grip? If any even make it as far as our EEZ, can we just stop with all the meanness and help them, for goodness sake?

UPDATE 12 July 2014: Another story, this time in Stuff, about a boat setting out from Sri Lanka, uh, 10,000 kilometres to sail in a 12 metre fishing vessel, according to the article. Labour’s immigration spokesman, Trevor Mallard, said this: “They have a healthy sense of optimism seeing as they had roughly 10,000 kilometres to come and they should be praised for that but the chances are unlikely to zero.”


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The Budget, The Media: Lo and Behold a Paper-Thin Surplus

As usual I had difficulty getting  my head around said Budget but my son helped out.   I doubt I’m any more bereft than the average punter so it would help if the media gave us some basic insight into how it all works.  (For some excellent comment on the Budget see Gordon Campbell’s  ‘Let them eat crumbs budget‘ at Scoop.)   And paid more attention to revenue expectations. “Look, a surplus” isn’t far off crying “look, the holy grail” offered son.   Whether this was his own insight I know not.   Most of the media dutifully echoed the “look, a surplus” approach.   A business commentator, Martin Hawes,  supplied the paper-thin description.

The big thing I’m to remember, said son, is that the Budget applies to the coming year not the one passed.  The surplus is forecast to increase.  Up to about $3 billion in three years time.   Had the rich not been granted reprieve from a high tax rate we would have had an extra billion plus annually over the last three years.  Some time ago, I had been all too easily persuaded that the amount the rich contributed was insignificant.  I don’t think a billion is insignificant.

What about revenue expectations?   Adverse weather events, a slower than expected Chistchurch rebuild (snail’s pace to date) dairy industry returns falling off and a tax take below expectation could put paid to even a paper-thin surplus in future years.   The rockstar economy bruited about the land earlier looks pretty trashed to me.   The Government has borrowed $45-50 billion since the financial crisis taking total government debt to $65 billion overall.   Gordon Campbell points out that the asset sales have not been invested, simply used to pay running costs.  Not what was promised.   (Private liabilities amount to $150 billion, we are still not paying our way and interest goes to overseas banks).  The exchange rate remains stubbornly high.

A Campbell Live (not the same Campbell as above) story on the Christchurch CBD re-build was alarming.   Apparently most building owners took their insurance and ran.   Two who are rebuilding look to be facing losses.   The area remains a wasteland and who wants an office or shop in a wasteland?  There is a reported shortage of skilled workers.  What seemed a good idea – encouraging beneficiaries to go there for work ($3,000 to assist in the move) didn’t thrill the builders.   Not enough apprenticeships served over the last three years.   Oh dear isn’t there a planning department in some ministry?   I think the Ministry of Works did this sort of thing but Labour dumped it in favour of self-replicating consultants whose reports cost millions and seem only to build inertia.  Where has head honcho of the earthquake recovery Gerry Brownlee gone to ground?

The budget will help working families.   Beneficiary families are once again stigmatised as the undeserving poor.  How many are desperately seeking work?  All too many hover close to edge of starvation, lack of money for good nutrition.   Nothing gives me gyp more than seeing doctors’ wives outside the supermarket raising money for the Malaghan Institute to fight cancer when the cost of fruit and vegetables is high.   A leaf of lettuce won’t do it.

There is no money for getting people onto hospital waiting list because THERE ARE NO WAITING LISTS OVER FOUR MONTHS.  They are not allowed to exist and were magicked away in a political swifty by, I think, Labour’s Annette King and happily taken advantage of by Tony Ryall.    Both have basked in the admiration of our younger less rickety media impressed with their management skills.  You have to be in some sort of extremis to get a joint replacement, a big issue for the elderly.  GPs are helpless, angry, distressed for patients.

Housing problems don’t seem to be going away and an increase in immigration may exacerbate them (whatever other advantages it might bring).

All in all, a sorry state of affairs.   Not for the  bankers who caused the problems or the economists and politicians who let them loose.    It’s wondrous how so many of the latter still enjoy the handsome perks of office at taxpayer expense.

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Child Sponsorship comes to New Zealand

Even though child sponsorship has been widely discredited internationally as a fair and effective form of aid, this seems to have passed unnoticed by Variety – The Children’s Charity. In New Zealand, they are calling for Kiwi Kid sponsors in response to “the growing divide between the haves and the have nots”.

My gripe with this policy may seem churlish and I am certainly not denying that poverty is a  significant problem in New Zealand. But singling out individual children for charity of this type is not the solution. There are other ways to help families feed and clothe their own children, as well as enable them to access education and health services: joining the fight for a living wage is one; building a strong union movement is another; and electing a government that supports such actions – rather than undermining them as this current one has done – will make a difference too.

There is no doubt that it is easier for agencies to use children to attract donations, but this should make us more wary of giving. Wouldn’t most parents prefer to be able to provide for their own children if they could? How can we help parents do this? The lessons learnt in the aid and development field suggest that this is best done through working with whole communities, not just one family or one individual child. The whole Kiwi Kid thing smacks of eighteenth century charity to me.

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