Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting the basics right

On Monday, the Minister of Social Welfare, Paula Bennett announced that the Ministry for Social Development which she is responsible for, is introducing widespread changes to the way social welfare is administered in New Zealand. Whilst I agree that there are changes necessary, I am concerned that the proposals will miss the mark and affect the wrong people. I am further concerned that she grossly underestimates the true state of the job market. But perhaps the most concerning part is much of the problem with social welfare in this country would not exist if the people handling the cases had undergone proper training and knew what they were talking about. Most do, but as we will see, not all do.

Last year I had a run in with one of the agencies working under the M.S.D. umbrella. In this particular case it was Work and Income New Zealand (W.I.N.Z.), and was the cause of two official complaints. The outcome was that the South Island Manager for W.I.N.Z. agreed to review communication procedures because very basic things such as the Case Manager forgot to hit "send" to electronically transmit my changed details so that I could be notified; they cut my benefit with no prior warning - amazing isn't it the number of problems that would not have occurred if communication had been good. If W.I.N.Z. had told me that they were going to stop my benefit, I would have acted to get the Study Allowance sorted out instead of thinking it would not be a problem. If I had known to contact Studylink and set up a Student Allowance, they would not have gotten the first of two official complaints.

Two weeks and about five meetings later, I had to suddenly apply for an emergency food grant of $200 of which $80 would be loaded on to the card immediately. I went down to ask for emergency assistance and was told despite needing it then to book an appointment and come back in 48 hours. That was the first mistake; the second was to appear quite casual and carefree about a pressing situation and to swap jokes with a passing colleague. He further ignored information from my bank about my EFTPOS account being in overdraft. This led to official complaint number two. It also led to a letter being sent to the Minister of Social Development pointing out bad practises and mentioning I was aware of a number of other cases like it, without going into details. She offloaded this to the South Island Manager.

The primary problems I identified in W.I.N.Z. are:
  1. Bad communication and handling of a case from one manager to the next, leading to unnecessary confusion, frustration and poor outcomes.
  2. Bad communication between W.I.N.Z.and Studylink - possibly non-existential given Studylink's apparent lack of knowledge one day about my situation when I rang them, despite W.I.N.Z. saying that they would talk to Studylink. 
  3. Bad design of the governing legislation in not permitting a grace period between saying a benefit is going to be cutting and actually severing it.
  4. Poor knowledge of services W.I.N.Z. can actually provide - at least one person I know of has said that W.I.N.Z. staff sometimes know less about the services they can provide than their clients.
These are very basic things going wrong. If they are going wrong, can/should we, the people of New Zealand whose taxes fund this, be able to trust the M.S.D. to carry out the proposed reforms?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Other Rob Muldoon

Just as badarse.

One Rob Muldoon deals with with dinosaurs ... the other deals with Roger Douglas.

Can only wonder what happens when you combine the two approaches.


So Shearer decided to do dinner with Winston. I suppose the old adage "If you can't beat him, learn from him" most definitely applies.

Maybe next time we should bring our respective caucuses; leading to an introduction I imagine going something like this...

Shearer: "Ah, Winston; I'm sorry you're not able to match our commitment to Opposition with numbers..."

Winston: "Don't we... You, there [points at Fenton] ... what is your profession?"

Fenton: "I'm a Union-advocate"

Winston: [points at Horomia] "And you?"

Horomia: "Maori-advocate ... and fast-food connoisseur"

Winston: [points at Robertson] "And you?"

Robertson: "Campaign Manager"

[Winston turns to address his own Caucus]



[Turns back to Shearer]: "You see, Shearer? I brought more Opposition than you did."

"Bill English? Mate, I'll Bill Anyone!"

In a recent speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Bill English laid down the gauntlet.

"Our political opponents need to honestly explain ... why it would be better to borrow this five to seven billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks. [rather than sell assets]."

I'm no Finance Minister (yet), but I think I'll have a crack at it.

What English is stating is that he'd prefer to sell $5-7 billion of assets rather than borrow $5-7 billion.

Leave aside the ever-changing numbers and estimates for a moment (and $2billion is a not inconsiderable variance), or the question as to what the money is actually going to go into (Key says hospitals and schools; we say it's paying in part for tax cuts), or the desirability of having core elements of important national infrastructure retained by New Zealand ... at its core, he's effectively saying it makes more financial sense to sell assets than to borrow.

So, let's do some number-crunching, shall we?

Treasury reportedly states that our assets on the chopping block have returned an average dividend of 14.5% over the last five years. 

Or, in plain terms, after a bit more than five years, we make more than we put into them.

So far, the only advantage of selling them now rather than waiting for them to deliver a steady and lucrative dividend is that we get a quick injection of cash now (or rather, over the next three years as we gradually privatize 'em) rather than having to wait half a decade for roughly the same value to accrue.

Leave aside for a moment that if we don't sell these assets we'll keep earning the dividend every year and thus stand to gain far more than the $5-7billion English is promising.

Instead, let's look at a direct comparison of how much it costs us to get this $5-7billion.

I've not been able to find direct information on the cost of crown borrowing (obviously my google-fu is weak), so I can't place the 14.5% p.a profit of retaining our assets next to a very low interest rate and say with mathematical certainty that "we're offsetting this borrowing cost completely and making a tidy profit"; but what I can do is point to another Bill English figure of a $100million p.a gap between the dividend we're going to make on these assets and the cost of borrowing the $5-7billion.

Let me rephrase that. By keeping these assets and by borrowing the $5-7billion, we're better off by $100million a year than we would be by selling the assets for a quick buck. And that's not even taking into account the longer term returns above and beyond the $5-7billion which we'd continue to reap if we kept 'em Kiwi.

Given his penchant for making up numbers favourable to whatever policy he's trying to push at the time, the actual amount could well be higher.

English had requested that his political opponents (of which I am a proud example) "honestly explain" why we should borrow rather than sell assets. Who'd have thought he'd be able to do it all by himself.


Oh, p.s/addendum ... with what has to be a seriously unique talent for political doublethink, English also happened to say the following while trying to defend the $100million we'd be worse off by. 
"Would you be willing to increase the mortgage on your house to go and borrow the money to buy shares on mighty river power?" I'm assuming, given the context he raised it in, that the answer he expected was "No". 
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this EXACTLY what Key expected all those "Mum & Dad" investors to do rather than putting money into proven revenue returners like property..?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"It's Just A Jump To The Left..."

"It's Astounding, how many Kiwis are fleeing
As Rogernomics takes its toll. 
But listen closely. Not for much longer! 
We're going to take back control!"

Here's the plan.

"It's just a jump to the left
and then a kick to the Right
You've got to put your foot down
As Rogergnomes bring the belt in tiiight
But it's the privatization that really drove us insayayaiiin
Let's do the Time-Warp Again!"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Charter Consulates...

I see our government has just announced another round of cuts to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this time targeting 305 staff and a projected fiscal saving of $20-25 million. We're also closing a number of European embassies (y'know, those in one of our major trading areas), and replacing consular assistance for overseas Kiwis with a call-center.
The next logical step is to follow in the footsteps of Empire by privatizing and outsourcing our foreign representation in a manner akin to the British East India Company. ACT's already proposed "Charter Schools" ... why not Charter Consulates.

These cuts are intended to save something like $20 million per annum. The question I'm asking myself is how much it's actually going to cost us fiscally or otherwise over the next few decades for these small-scale savings.
MFAT exists in part to do things like negotiating the trade contracts that help us add value to the Kiwi economy. That's why there's an "and Trade" in its name. Surely reducing the ministry's staff by about 22% is not going to make it more efficient at "bringing home the bacon".

Right-wing propagandist David Farrar is calling these cuts "arguably the most significant restructuring of a major public sector agency since the revolutionary reforms of the 1980s". With such vehement praise flowing from the hard right, I'm thus instinctively inclined to question why anyone would think them to be such a good idea.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Casual Approach To Employment "Reform"

Q: What do actors, stevedores and longshoremen at the Ports of Auckland, and a whole host of other Kiwi workers have in common?

A: We're being subjected to something called "Casualisation".

What does this mean in practice? Well, it means we're not "employed" as such. We're no longer employees.
We're now contractors and we contract our services out to our former "employers".
"Big deal!" some on the Right are saying. "You're still working and still getting an hourly rate for doing so!"

Well, think about it like this. Using the film industry as an example, Frank Macskasy has characterised what happened thus: "Just imagine, you are an employee on Friday, with four weeks annual leave; sick pay; the right to join a Union if you so wish; and job security. Then you arrive at work on Monday and, by Government decree, you are now classed as an independent contractor. No more annual leave; no more sick pay; no more job security. And because you’re an independent contractor, the law forbids you the choice of belonging to a Union." Admittedly he's referring to National's passage of the "Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act" under Urgency back in 2010 in specia, and emphasizing the deleterious effects upon these particular workers of suddenly having a good chunk of  their workers' rights taken away at the stroke of a pen ... but the argument applies to all affected industries.

If you abruptly find yourself self-employed (despite doing exactly the same work as you were previously), you're suddenly saddled with a whole host of costs you didn't have beforehand. As I recently found out much to my shock and annoyance, being "self-employed" means I'm now responsible for paying my own ACC levies which had previously been met by my employers. I'm now ineligible for sick leave, annual leave, or even guaranteed hours in most of my sources of income (here I'm talking chiefly about the education rather than entertainment sector), and have had to suspend my membership of Kiwisaver in part because my employers are no longer obliged to make contributions alongside my own.

The counter-argument from the Right is that I should theoretically be able to parlay the lower costs of employing me (i.e. things my employers no longer have to do) into increased wages and increased employment.
I'm not quite sure why they assume I'm in a strong enough negotiating position (i.e. completely and utterly indispensable to my employers) to negotiate a bigger and better pay packet, given that 83% of Kiwi workers will see their wages fall this year; while our workforce participation rate and actual number of hours worked both take a nosedive. All this would appear to indicate I'm actually in a far weaker bargaining position, even before we take into account the fact that I have not actually had the ability to say to my employer "I'm prepared to sacrifice these benefits/entitlements for a small pay increase". The government has, I suppose, pre-empted this and done that for me; for little apparent gain in either real renumeration or employment opportunities.

Thanks John Key.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ACC. Angry at Casualisation Chicanery

This afternoon I received a letter from ACC invoicing me for nearly a grand worth of unpaid levies.

I was surprised and confused by this as I haven't suffered any personal injuries or made any claims for a good half-decade, and thought that my contributions were (as the scheme was supposed to work) being paid by my various employers (I work several jobs in the education and service industries, as well as the occasional acting and commercial gig).

Not so, apparently. When John Key changed our labour laws at the behest of Warner Bros and shifted the employment status of many people involved in our growing film and associated industries to that of "self-employed contractors", he did so to introduce more flexibility into that part of the labour market.

Or, in layman's terms, to make it easier to hire-and-fire workers, and to cut the rights (and therefore costs) we, as with all other Kiwi workers have historically been entitled to.

I'm genuinely annoyed by all of this, and not just because it's all coming out of my pocket.
It's just like the Kiwisaver "employer contributions" that now seem to be coming out of employees wages.
This is something which is supposed to be paid by the employer as it has been for several decades - not another excuse to reduce my pay packet and quite literally pass the buck so a foreign film-maker can increase their profit margins.

I can't wait till National tries to introduce "Competition" into ACC's Work Account. No doubt we'll see much more of this sort of thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

NZF Youth - What We Actually Do

I'd seen a few of these floating around the net; and, given our new 21st century inclinations, indulging in a little meme-warfare seemed only right. So, without further ado, I give you NZF Youth - What We Actually Do.

neat infographics

One of our ardent campaigners from Tauranga made a few infographics for the 2011 campaign.

We think you'll agree they're pretty neat! 






Whale Oil Beef Thugged

It's no secret I don't like FailOil.

And, given that he's tried to tar me with everything from fascism to misogyny, one strongly suspects the feeling is mutual.

I've had the ... dubious pleasure of having to engage with everyone's favourite beneficiary bludger on several occasions, during which he's done his darndest to prove the ancient maxim: "Never fight with a fool. He'll try and drag you down to his level and then win by virtue of experience." Or possibly boxing and-or a cycle-race when the verbal and intellectual gymnastics required for actual debate get beyond him.

Anyway, the point of this post isn't to bitch about him. I've got far larger targets to worry about (which is saying something); the Government for one.

Rather, I'm writing to draw your attention to what I hope will be The People's Liberation Front of Aotearoa's answer to the Mendicant Menace ... a new blog creatively entitled Whale Oil Beef Thugged.

Happy Harpooning ;)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Man Whose Economic Forecasting Makes Astrology Look Respectable

I see Bill English has just admitted he made up some of the figures on asset sales.

He's also said that the fiscal impact of the sales will be "roughly neutral" and will leave us with "less debt".

Well that sounds familiar. Where have we heard Bill English talking about "fiscally neutral" "debt-reducing" economic programs before.

Oh that's right, it was those "fiscally neutral tax cuts" that put a $1.1billion hole in the books.

Surely that's a one-off. Highly trained economics professionals and an experienced finance minister aren't in the business of putting out fallacious figures and then sheepishly revising them when they're caught out ... are they?

Unfortunately, yes they are.

Note what happened there. Before the election, our competent economic managers were talking about 3.4% growth for the next year. Post-election, it's 2.8%. That might not sound like much, but by my amateur calculations, that indicates Treasury was out by something like 17%. Hardly reassuring.

But don't despair! We may have screwed up and over-estimated how well the recovery'd be going by now by nearly a fifth ... but there is good news! We're actually going to grow by 3.8% the year after that! Not 3.3% like we previously claimed!

Again, these are figures out by an amount of less than twenty per cent, although this time in the government's favour. This might ordinarily sound plausible, but consider why Treasury revised its figures for growth till March '13 downward. It reckoned it had overestimated the economic benefits of the Christchurch rebuild and underestimated the severity of the ongoing Eurozone crisis.

This would be the already-much-vaunted Christchurch rebuild that's apparently going to account for 1.25% of GDP growth over the next five years, and the Eurozone crisis every man and his dog (although apparently not every minister and his lapdogs) has been witnessing deteriorate for months now.

But wait ... it gets worse. 

Pandering to National's base, pre-election English's ministry was claiming it'd be able to deliver a $1.45 billion surplus for 2014-15. Post-election it's claiming it will be able to deliver a $370 million surplus.

Wow. The Nats have somehow managed to lose more than a billion imaginary dollars out of their "Brighter Future." Presumably that's even after the well-above-valuation revenue they're expecting to reap from those well-mandated asset sales we keep hearing about.

Anyway, my point is simple. Governor Mario Cuomo pithily stated that "you campaign in poetry; you govern in prose". Or, put another way, from the perspective of a Minister of Finance wishing to maintain his ministerial salary, it's fiscally prudent to over-state how well he's doing before the election ... but the closer one's forecasts come to fruition, the more prudent it becomes to revise them downward toward reality.
Not that GDP growth forecasts from the boy who cried fiscal stimulus package actually have much worth anyway.

Of course, it's one thing to fudge one's economic forecasting; in that case Treasury's economic sooth-sayers can, as they have done, plead ignorance of changing circumstances in a "dynamic environment" as explanation (even though this looks these days more like a case of the Austrian economists burying their collective head in the sand).

It's quite another thing to simply make up numbers.

Or, being charitable to English, merely repeat made-up numbers from the year before in the hope nobody's noticed the continuing falsehood.

However, in fairness, these numbers tend to come from Treasury - a department which, as Harold Wilson observed "could not, with any marked success, run a fish and chip shop." We have thus come to expect a certain level of incompetence in the numbers department from the people we presumably pay to be reasonably accurate about the economy. With this in mind, the standard gNat line of defence when called on the frequently wild inaccuracy of a Treasury entrail reading is to pass the buck and point out that the Minister did not come up with the projection and that it's therefore someone else's fault.

Witness English's response above. When Guyon Espiner calls him on the credibility of the 170,000 jobs figure, English retreats and insists Treasury forecasting is "done independent of the government"; despite the fact he shares a "sense of confidence" in those forecasts.

With respect, the Minister should not be able to have it both ways. He can't put forward a made-up number as evidence the economic policy contained in his Budget is working (and, presumably, has been working for some years given the figure's repetition), then when called on the question as to whether it's predicting job growth for this or some other, more successful economy state that Treasury, not him, did the portent-reading. He especially can't do it when it turns out that his own government is patently unaware of any hard evidence for the number in question. Either he has confidence in his forecasting or he doesn't, and taking the above statements at face value, he patently does.

Thus, whichever way you look at it, this is a government whose economic forecasting makes astrology look respectable, which leads me to the unfortunate conclusion that a Maori economic axiom from the 1860s still holds true today. Namely, NEVER TRUST THE ENGLISH.

Don't fix what isn't broken. FFS.

In New Zealand politics the phrase "the more things change, the more some things stay the same" is perhaps nowhere more relevant than people wanting to try and 'fix' New Zealand's national treasure that isn't broken: ACC. You only really have to have a quick look at the last three years to see this in action, while those who've been alive longer and paying attention for longer have had to watch it since the 90's.

In the news today the government announced it is considering raising ACC levies just months after it lowered it them. And evidence gathered by a Hazel Armstrong indicates that this is being done by Nick Smith purely to 'level the playing field' with insurance companies who are getting some entry into the work account starting in October.
So basically ACC levies are low and cheap but apparently we need to make them more expensive so we can make room for some private insurance competition. Awesome for those insurance companies I guess but annoying for everyone else who seems pretty happy with ACC. PriceWaterhouseCooper, the nearest thing to an independent body we can get I suppose, was pretty happy to call it the best system of its kind in the world as recently as 2008.
A quick cycle back in time to 2009 makes this talk about levy cuts and levy rises to make room for competition seem rather strange. Two years ago according to the government ACC was in a horrible deficit and insolvent.
ACC, which has consistently performed among the world's best in health outcomes and ensuring comprehensive coverage for all New Zealanders since 1974, was apparently in such dire straits in 2009 that one young ACTer proclaiming to fight for less government and against monopolies had a solution to fix the whole thing!

"Liberty Scott" boldly proclaimed: "The monopoly has failed miserably, once again. The measures National are announcing are patching up a system that is breaking". The young libertard’s solution was pretty elegant and simple: bust up the whole thing, or as he put it "move fast ... to individualize the whole system". Free the markets! (and also some horrendously complex stuff in practice about grandfathering in existing claimants. Or even worse tendering them out because of course we need free market competition to take up a work burden that doesn't currently exist).

So yeah. What do we make of this? Well Liberty Scott does look like a muppet 3 years later doesn't he. But what 'Liberty Scott' represents isn't just some phenomenon that looks stupid recently, nor is it constrained to sub-par blogs. Neo-liberalism has a storied tradition of this type of stuff and it has broken more than a few things since the 80’s to get a quick fix for a few people.

Unfortunately the tradition of trying to break stuff so a few rich mates can get their fix seems to be continuing from Nick Smith to Judith Collins in 2011 - although admittedly not as drastic as Liberty Scott’s proposed 2009 solution.

But also since 2009 then there have been some fantastic changes. Those changes of course being that ACT got individualized down to one MP and NZFirst is back in action working hard to not fix things which aren't broken. I'm glad to say to Liberty Scott that NZFirst has a monopoly on really understanding the value behind our public healthcare system and his bullshit is laughable.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Return of the NZF Party Party

In case you missed NZF's election night party, TVNZ has recently put footage of it back up on their OnDemand service. Kicks in around the 9:20 minute mark immediately after the ACT Party finishes embarrassing itself (I say "finishes", but it's going to be a long three years waiting for that to happen, unfortunately).

Solid appearances from Ryan, Anya & Mattias; as well as the Curwen-Montage.

In my own words, "We'll change the slogan from 'Bring Back Winston' to 'Keeping The Bastards Honest!'"

The Sir Robert Muldoon Center For Time-Warp Research

Every so often here in NZF Youth, something momentously cool happens.

Last week, for instance, several of us were privileged to be sitting in The House watching our MPs giving their Maiden Speeches.

To commemorate the moment I whipped out my copy of Sir Robert Muldoon's "The New Zealand Economy, A Personal View", and got our entire caucus (with the unfortunate exception of Denis O'Rourke) to sign it.

I'd been reading it on the plane down, and had been struck once again by the book's qualities as a repository for what "Old New Zealand" and a National Party better described as "Nationalist" rather than "InterNational" meant.

Where else would you find a National leader proclaiming the strong enthusiasm of the Kiwi people for trade unions; or expressing his distaste for letting theoretical economists run rampant and wild with the direction of our economy.

So many lessons, so many reflections on what we used to be and what we could have been.

It called to mind a quotation of Reagan's; who, upon being asked why he'd left the Democrats and joined the Republicans (not many of you knew he began political life as a Democrat, did you :P ) stated, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party; the party left me."

So too, New Zealand First and the Muldoonist party of old; with National leaving behind our ambition to Think Big and to Dream Even Bigger in order to trust in the abacus-tweaking, ivory-tower-endorsing, grand-economic-revolutionizing 'promises' of Rogernomics and Ruthanasia (with the end result, might I add, of "OurYouthInAsia"). 

With this in mind, this book and these signatures symbolize for me not so much a return for New Zealand to the values of the 1970s - how could we, and why should we. Rather, it symbolizes a return to Parliament of some of the Muldoonist values. A hard-headed pragmatism, a fiercely combative style that calls fools to account from across the political spectrum; a compassionate Nationalism; a recognition that "the whole concept of Government is based on Intervention"; and most important of all, a driving conviction that "economic management is not a matter of textbooks and algebraic equations. It is people".

I should thus like to end on that sage economic advice coded into Sir Rob's role in the Rocky Horror Picture Show; "It's just a jump to the left ... and then a step to the right",  and with the indelible hope that we can indeed do the time-warp again.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tracey Martin MP on Chinese Migration

"I note another article this morning about many of our Asian citizens or visitors being particularly prone to abuse and racial discrimination. As I said in my Maiden Speech, the New Zealand Chinese community has been one of the major contributors since the 1800's to the building of this nation but because they were not signatories to the Treaty we hardly hear about it. 

I believe we need a concerted campaign to education our population on their contributions to our country and their absolute right to be here. Secondly, we need to start playing the ball not the man. New Zealand First has always had a policy of an Immigration Plan, but it is not acceptable to blame the individual who met the criteria laid down by the government to come and settle in this nation for being here. They have met the criteria, they have the right to be here and be treated with respect. 

New Zealand First's position is that as a nation we must have a long term plan around this issue. How many people are enough for New Zealand? What can our country sustain if we wish to keep a certain percentage of our rural environments pristine? I mean, is it really good for Auckland to bring in another 1 million people in the next 30 years? Why not incentivise settlement around the nation? I asked Jonathan Coleman that question last year and he replied that immigrants were more productive when clumped together. I personally find that answer shocking - production unit talk as opposted to people responsive solutions."

Is it any wonder she's my favourite MP? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

ACTresses & Air-Heads

It is alleged that Napoleon once advised never to ascribe to malice that which could adequately be explained by incompetence.

In the case of the ACT Party, the distinction appears to be meaningless.

Take, for example, John Banks announcing that he's "much more interested in the penguins at Antarctica than I am in some of the social problems that we have in New Zealand".

I'm honestly not sure whether that counts as incompetence or malice.

On one level, it's clearly rank stupidity. Successful politicians don't usually go out of their way to make themselves appear out of touch with the concerns of their constituents, even if they've been smart enough to be vague about which of those concerns they don't care about.

On another level, it's malice. If you're anti-gay rights or anti-abortion, then you're quite welcome to read into Banks' comments that he's just as apathetic about these issues as you are. And, as an added bonus, Banks cares about the welfare of endangered animals and a pristine Antarctic wilderness.

For a certain sort of (socially conservative) right-wing voter, this message ticks all the subconscious boxes.
It's also just vague enough for anything unsavoury to be plausibly deniable if he's confronted about it.
Full marks for figuring out how to pander to the base without alienating the swing voters *too* terribly much.

I'm not going to touch Banks' various and sundry comments about South Auckland as they've already been done to death elsewhere, except to note the vanishingly small line between incompetence and malice in ACT's parliamentary caucus that these evidence.

It's incompetent to galvanize a large swathe of the Auckland electorate against you by referring to their part of the city as a "social disaster"; and it's malicious to subsequently characterize the browner denizens of that area as subsisting on benefits in order to "sit in front of TV, smoke marijuana, watch pornography, and plan more drug offending, more burglaries" with the ultimate objective of "coming through our windows if we live in Epsom".

My inner cynic wonders why Banks wasn't so quick to condemn the white-collar (and mostly white) criminals who are disproportionately concentrated in his (and my) Epsom electorate.

Oh that's right, it's because it'd mean condemning guys like Banks' business partner, Peter Huljich.

Then again, Banks does occasionally say things that prove Napoleon's maxim.

His recent assertion that Onehunga College was a charter school was presumably just incompetence, rather than a devious soundbite designed to make it seem like ACT's new and unmandated shakeup of the education sector wasn't nearly as untried, unfamiliar, or foreign as it actually was.

Unfortunately, his incompetence here doesn't reflect very well on his ability comprehend, much less implement the wide-ranging "reforms" he's seeking for our kids.

With comments like these, I'd respectfully suggest that Deborah Coddington dubbed the wrong inept white male the Mr Magoo of Kiwi politics.

In any case, lest we think this curious combination of odiousness and incompetence is something new in ACT's leadership, let's cast our minds back to a man who was apparently unaware of that other political maxim ... "when you're already in the hole, stop mining the conservation estate".

It's odious to suggest that we must open an open-cast mine at Pike River in order to respect the men who died there; it's barely conceivable incompetence to suggest ruining our pristine conservation estate with strip-mining to create a tourist attraction.

It was, however, karmically appropriate for him to suggest there was a "silly old man leading [my] party" in light of Hide's eventual fate as leader of ACT.

Fortunately, there's a new generation of ACTress unburdened by the rank bigotry and frank incompetence of their predecessors ready to take the helm and steer the party back to being one of high-minded principle.

Oh wait...

It's one thing to call Labour out for alleged breaches of the Electoral Finance Act (weird, considering ACT was so dead set against said act that they were prepared to take then-Attorney General Michael Cullen to court over it) ... but it's quite another to try and compare Labour with the Nazi Party based around their shared use of the colour red and the fact they've both got youth wings.

ACT on Campus' persistent use of rape, whether to intimidate opponents or just to make really weird and unfounded comparisons also does nothing to endear them in my eyes.

Maybe Rick Giles wasn't so bad after all. 

ACTing Out The Past

This is a screenshot of ACT's website taken on the morning of the 6th of February.

There are two points of interest which I've emphasised in red for the benefit of the reader. 

First, ACT obviously hasn't gotten over its crushing defeat in last year's election and is still claiming to have 5 MPs.

It's been two months, guys! Time to let go and get over it!

Ordinarily I'd have put that kind of fossilized display down to neglect for a poorly used asset; but seeing as somebody's seen fit to update the site with Banks' Address in Reply (a fossilized display of a different kind), it would appear there's some wilful obfuscation going on.

I'd tell ACT to stop living in the past, but that seems rather harsh on a party which doesn't have a future.
It would also be rather hard given their choice of Caucus Member, and the fact that Banks' speech seems substantively to be a pining ode to an imaginary 1990s.

Yes, you read that correctly. Somebody has actually developed fond nostalgia for the 90s.

The second point of interest is that it's finally dawned on John Banks why the House empties whenever he gets up to speak.

As the man himself puts it, "there is a belief that not every Member of Parliament has something worthwhile to say."

Hat-tip to Frankly Speaking

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tenants, but in whose own country?

Mark Twain once wrote that while History might not repeat, it certainly does rhyme. 

Image is courtesy of Frank Macskasy's excellent blog Frankly Speaking and reposted with kind permission.