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Petrol Pump Politics

By   /  October 9, 2018  /  39 Comments

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“AT A DOLLAR a gallon we can’t afford Rowling.” Given his latest media release,  “Government pricing Kiwis out of their cars”, someone’s obviously been schooling up young Simon Bridges on the way Rob Muldoon smashed Labour in 1975.

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“AT A DOLLAR a gallon we can’t afford Rowling.” Given his latest media release,  “Government pricing Kiwis out of their cars”, someone’s obviously been schooling up young Simon Bridges on the way Rob Muldoon smashed Labour in 1975.

[Bill Rowling, for all you millennials out there, was the Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand from September 1974 until December 1975, and a gallon (4.5 litres) was the unit of measure for petrol at the pump. So, yes, you’re right, the motorists of 1975 paid roughly a tenth of what we pay today to fill up our tanks. – C.T.]

But even back when petrol was only a dollar a gallon, Kiwi motorists were hurting. Ever since the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, during which Egypt and Syria came within an ace of destroying the State of Israel, the price of oil had soared. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab oil-exporters had imposed an embargo on the USA and its allies for resupplying the Israelis with arms and ammunition, the resulting price-hikes delivered a stunning blow against the western economy. The so-called “Oil Shocks” of 1973-79 marked the end of the Great Post-War Boom. Almost overnight, New Zealanders – along with just about everyone else in the Western World – lost confidence in the future. Even worse, they began casting about for someone to blame.

Hence, the National Party’s propaganda thrust blaming the rise in oil prices on Bill Rowling. Of course, anybody who had been following current affairs over the previous two years knew perfectly well that National was peddling what today we would call “fake news”. But, those weren’t the people Muldoon was after. The voters he was seeking to enlist alongside National’s habitual supporters were the disoriented, frustrated and just flat-out angry working-class Kiwis who were struggling to work out what had all-of-a-sudden gone wrong with their country.

Like the formerly Democrat Trump supporters of 2016, these bewildered Labour voters found it increasingly difficult to identify with “their” party. Labour was supposed to stand for “the working man” and his values, but now, following the tragic death of that quintessential working-class battler, “Big Norm” Kirk in August 1974, the party was led by a training-college lecturer and was advancing policies which seemed to have more in common with the demands of the long-haired hippies and protesters in the streets than they did with the “ordinary Kiwi joker” and his concerns – not the least of which was the soaring price of petrol.

Muldoon and his campaign advisers were only too aware of the culture war that was breaking out within the Labour Party and they couldn’t wait to exploit it.

Over the course of the 1960s and 70s, Labour’s membership had dwindled. The party branches were peopled predominantly by people who may have been young and radical in the 1930s and 40s but who were now very settled in their ways – and views – which tended towards the socially conservative. Many Labour stalwarts were Roman Catholics, Baptists and members of the Salvation Army. They bitterly resented the small but active groups of liberals and radicals who had begun drifting into Labour from 1969 onwards. They were seen as middle-class carpet-baggers without the slightest idea of what it meant to be a working-class Kiwi.

These were the people for whom National’s election slogan, “New Zealand the way YOU want it”, was invented. The people who had begun to feel neglected, misunderstood and even despised by the people at the top of the Labour Party – and their friends. This latter group had banded together in an outfit calling itself “Citizens for Rowling” which, to the ears of a great many Kiwis, sounded a lot more like “Citizens Against Muldoon”.

It was a huge strategic error on the part of Labour’s hifalutin supporters. Instead of turning people against the pugnacious National leader, it drew them towards him. Just as liberal America’s hatred of Trump only served to entrench his support among those aggrieved Americans without college degrees or six-figure incomes; Labour’s near-obsession with Rob Muldoon proved to be one of the key factors in the growth of “Rob’s Mob” – that peculiar assemblage of “ordinary blokes” and “ordinary sheilas” for whom Muldoon felt more like a Labour leader than the thoroughly decent but doggedly uninspiring Rowling.

Forty years on, Labour supporters should brace themselves for a National Party-driven social media campaign built around the slogan: “At $2.40 a litre, we can’t afford Jacinda.” It’s bound to acquire some measure of political purchase. How could it not when, for Kiwis on low incomes, $2.40 a litre for gas is just one more burden for them to bear. (And anyone on the Labour team thinking about telling these folk to “go electric” should, perhaps, recall the effect on the breadless masses of the thoughtless suggestion that they should consider eating cake.)

National’s big problem is that Simon Bridges is not Rob Muldoon. Bridges simply does not possess Muldoon’s ability to inspire both confidence and hope; fear and dread. Nor is Jacinda Ardern even remotely like Bill Rowling. The latter always came across as the person for whom the saying “nice guys finish last” was invented. And although stardust was intermittently available to politicians back in 1975, the historical record makes it very clear that nobody ever got so much as a speck of it to Bill.

About the only thing Bridges has got going for him is that, unlike the 1973-79 oil shocks, the steady rise in the price of petrol over the period 2018-2021 cannot be sheeted home to greedy Arab oil magnates. This time, it is all Labour’s own work.

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  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Hydrogen cars are available?

  2. DennyPaoa DennyPaoa says:

    I think you could be right on the money Chris. The Pump Price could kill off the stardust in 2020 and Jacindarella too!?

    • Sam Sam says:

      IDK. There’s some pretty drastic oil price predictions to try and justify $3 oil prices. At $3 dollars pressure to Nationalise oil is pretty high.

    • Pierre says:

      Actually it could achieve just the opposite. Labour just need to show that the increased taxes is necessary to compensate for Nationals poor management. Adding 15% to the population without providing the planning, management and funding for infrastructure to cope with their (Nationals) reckless ponzi scheme. Sadly it seems also their only strategy to grow the economy. Furthermore, through the reviews, could keep the impact on Kiwis in the news for many years to come. How many Kiwi’s died as result of Nationals lack funding to health and expand services for population growth.

      Their tears and hype is more the disappointment that they and business can not fully offload the impact on the poor as they did with vehicle registration fees.

  3. Marc says:

    FFS, the primitive part of human thinking has set in again, and is causing hysteria and fear.

    Yesterday we were presented this:


    We get MSM and political hand wringing and talk about research, science, investment, plans for the future, and reliance on possible ‘technical solutions’ that do not exist yet, and that may not even be feasible or economical.

    So our over dependence on fossil fuel energy shows again, with all those nice new SUVs I see drive around Auckland, imported by middle class property owners who take advantage of ballooning home values, to use their equity for more credit to buy nice new petrol and diesel cars.

    Few have the cash or will to buy an expensive electrical vehicle, even if we had affordable EVs the grid would be overloaded with present capacity, or rather collapse due to too high demand.

    The poorer folk are struggling as usual, also keeping up with petrol prices, or trying to, oh, I must have my car, I need to get to my work, take the kids to school, I must do my shopping with my car, there are too few buses in our areas.

    Sooner or later we have to face it, change must happen, is it time to lament the unavoidable, higher and less affordable petrol prices?

    Short sightedness everywhere, unwillingness to change all over the show, blame game, simple crap talk, Simon Bridges the ‘fake greenie’ or pro fossil fuel opposition leader has found a topic he can dish out to Jacinda on. Judith Collins doing the same.

    Ban cars from urban centres, force people to cycle, walk, use buses, at least to share rides, it needs to happen, do not come with new excuses to postpone the inevitable steps that need to be taken.

    Only truckies, train and bus drivers should be exempted from higher taxes, only farmers using their utilities, the rest is wasteful energy use, and prepare to use alternatives, thanks.

    • David Stone says:

      I agree with this Marc.
      The price of fuel is the only thing likely to help global warming. No political decisions are going to be made to achieve any useful thing.
      But I don’t see this as being purely Labour’s doing. Haven’t crude prices nearly doubled in the last 2 yrs? most of the increase in the last 6 months?
      Not too many folk are going to assume that petrol prices would be much cheeper under National if the international price remains the same.
      Re Jacinda vs Rowling. People will support Jacinda if they can. People supported Rowling if they had to.
      D J S

      • Richard Christie says:

        The price of fuel is the only thing likely to help global warming.

        Govt action can certainly help toward slowing AGW. In fact, I’d say it’s a necessity, market forces and private initiatives will only kick in well after it’s too late for effective action. We are seeing this already.

        The longer Govt. drags its feet on renewable energy (via subsidies) etc the further it will have go in the future and at much higher cost.

  4. Michelle says:

    don’t think so Mr Paoa it will take more than a petrol increase

  5. Worzel Gummidge says:

    I would suggest that rapid devaluation of kiwi dollar versus US plus rising oil prices would have quite a bit to do with it actually Chris, neither of which can be attributed to NZ Labour.

  6. Aaron says:

    You mean the Labour party started drifting from it’s working class base in the 60s? It really is time to give up on them if that’s the case

  7. Ed says:

    “the steady rise in the price of petrol over the period 2018-2021 cannot be sheeted home to greedy Arab oil magnates. This time, it is all Labour’s own work.”

    Not true, Mr Trotter.
    There are world geopolitical events going on, which you should be aware of.
    Saudi Arabia, Iran…..

    • Sam Sam says:

      Your evaluation should determine your interests.

      The other way around is called Hopium and there are still too many people high on it to call top.

  8. XRAY says:

    Hard to see how petrol climbing 40 plus cents per litre is ALL Labours own work!

    In fact anywhere but Auckland and its gone up by 4 cents per litre because of tax increases and the rest due to crude prices, speculation and a lower dollar vs the US because of their interest rates.

  9. CLEANGREEN says:

    We need to use rail in a smart way in future to get the best lowest transport emissions system by incorporating the use of “mixed trains” heard of them?

    I caught a mixed train when i left Rhodesia in 1970 and headed for capetown and at the border at Mafeking I got put on a “mixed train” with three carriages on the back of a freight train which made a delightful trip as we stopped at many colourful stops along the way and saw the interior of the country.

    I would highly recommend a mixed train to anyone today as mixed trains are still used in four continents including US today so we should do this as it would take cars and trucks off the roads lowering the carnage and lower the climate change emissions at the same time.

    Here is a link to Mixed trains. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_train

  10. Tiger Mountain says:

    the least the govt could do is drop the GST “tax on a tax” component of the petrol price, and pile into the oil companies head on, and threaten to nationalise the Marsden Pt. refinery–they would not like that up them!

    the oil companies have always been arrogant bastards with their Transfer Pricing model

    the sick part is the Nats if in Govt. would likely actually do very little to lower the petrol price, being the party of more roads and trucks, rather than public transport and electric vehicles

  11. Jays says:

    Labour is as far from their traditional base as the Democrats are and it is disgraceful.
    They are far more interested in identity politics than the average schmo.
    They are only outdone in this respect by the greens.

    National can’t win the next election but they most definitely will end up in government because Labour are utterly determined to lose the next election.

  12. sc says:

    The petrol tax rises are very bad timing. No way around it. They are regressive and hit the poor hard. I voted Green but I am a realist enough to know that you will pay what you have to pay to fill up the car first and the kids will get jam sandwiches for tea instead of veges and meat cause getting to work is not discretionary spending.

    The government is running a silly fiscal surplus and an overly parsimonious debt target regime. They have fiscal hypochondriasis as Paul Krugman I think called it. They should just fund the infrastructure investments they want to make without increasing taxes. Either via overt monetary finance (better) or issue debt at the ridiculously low rates available.

    That’s not to say bringing the monopolistic oil companies into line isn’t a good idea too. Or subsidising electric vehicles and their infrastructure as well as better public transport.

    But the fuel tax is regressive and the timing with a low dollar and higher oil prices is bad and perhaps unforseen at last year’s election when fiscal prudence posturing was apparently so important to being electable.

    • SPC says:

      Sure with the GST revenues bumped up by the lower dollar raising imports values, the government is well able to defer the Auckland levy until the petrol price falls back a bit.

  13. bert says:

    So Bridges states we are paying well over $250 a year extra in fuel and it will hurt New Zealanders. Which ones though Soimann? The lower income earners have had an increase in benefits by $80 a fortnight. Now that’s over $1700 a year. That 10 Bridges, is rather significant, plus the winter supplement payment. Now other ordinary public servants like teachers and nurses are in for a 9 year overdue increase in their salaries, something National arrogantly ignored. So Simon, I say for the umpteenth time you are irrelevant.

    • Marc says:

      So where is that $80 a fortnight ‘benefit increase’ you are talking about? Most people I know who live off benefits had only about 20 or so bucks a week extra for two to three months due to the winter energy payment, that has been stopped for now.

      And many who got that did not use it for energy costs, they used it for the food they could usually not afford anyway.

      Perhaps some parents with kids on benefits got a bit extra, but singles have NOT got a cent more per week under this government, the Accommodation Supplement increase was neutralised by cuts in TAS or Special Benefit, for those who depend on those extra supplements.

      BS galore, I note.

      • bert says:

        The BS as you call it was the promised tax cut for all by National. Hardly targeted and if you think for one moment petrol prices under National weren’t going to increase, then you’re either living on panet Key or in la la land.
        I am a believer in looking after the vast majority of the country but I note you mention “singles”. Do you fall under this heading? If so, practise what National preachers and go out and re-educate yourself,earn a better wage, you know, we’re all equal remember. Stop blaming Labour!

        • Marc says:

          BS, Labour and and must do better, also NZ First, they carry on treating beneficiaries as beggars that need looking after, but they are only willing to give them a little more than the Nats are prepared, so the difference is too little, beneficiaries remain beggars, under Nats and under Labour.

          • bert says:

            “the difference is too little, beneficiaries remain beggars, under Nats and under Labour.”

            That we can agree on. Yes Labour must do better but to think National are their equal well, my friend, that is BS.( and you know it)

  14. Liminal says:

    What a lot of whingeing about petrol prices in this petrol-headed country. Seems like every second vehicle I see on the roads is a damn’ great 4WD/ute/Remuera Tractor, ridden by couldn’t-give-a-shit drivers. Heaven knows how much they cost in repayments etc. Get smaller cars, use them less, use public transport more (Soooo undignified and demeaning for many Kiwi blokes especially). Hypocrites, the lot of them.

    • Marc says:

      Petrol prices in NZ Inc are pretty much in lime with those in many other developed countries, yes still even a bit lower than in many countries in Europe:

      The NZD buys about 56 Euro Cents now, do your calculations.

      People continue to be short sighted, think only from week to week, do not plan for the collective nation’s well-being, and have been taught and encouraged to think of only themselves first, and to stuff the rest.

      With that mindset we will NEVER make any social and economic progress, except from token ‘changes’ and changing the colour of the lipstick on the pig, or the dresses on the dull showroom dummies!

  15. Pete says:

    What Bridges has in his favour is that a lot of idiots are looking for a role model to follow in the National Perty. Simon has it, in spades.

  16. countryboy says:

    Ha. Great Post. I remember those days albeit through the wispy veil of a child’s mind.
    I do remember Bill Rowling too. A funny little fellow with a nasal squeak of a voice. He never stood a chance against the demonic pig. A pugnacious bully and bent to boot. ( That classic image of him scurrying off a plane, fresh back from Switzerland after checking on his numbered Swiss bank account. )
    These, are heady times are they not?
    The planet’s dying under us, the despots are rousing their rabbles and the super riche are heading to Nu Zillind like rats returning to the ship that didn’t quite sink.
    Here’s a basic thing. We’ll be ok. 4.7 million people on NZ/AO can’t help but do otherwise. Even if we fell over from starvation there’s probably going to be something edible right at the end of our nose. No. Not snot. We’re all adults, remember.
    And why does no one talk about LPG? We have vast amounts of the stuff.
    I got a subsidy to put my car on LPG back in the 1980’s. It was a Dodge Dart V8 and it went really well on 55c a litre.
    The Todd Group, our LPG resource and now Z petroleum? What’s that all about?
    Surely, it can’t be about dodgy arseholes, greedy miscreants and back handers now could it?

    ( And do you know what? Who would care? No one. That’s who. We’re without steerage heading into deeply troubled waters and the Captain we dreamed of and whom we hung our hopes on never really existed.)

  17. mosa says:

    Muldoon was very good at political assassination with describing Rowling as ” a shiver looking for a spine to run up ” and that spoke volumes in people’s perception of a man who was very bright and away from the political stage incredibly tough.
    But public persona is everything and as we have seen over the last eight years many have stepped up but could not preform for Labours top job and as Muldoon once said ” really grab the public ”
    Muldoon at least did not have to hide behind a black ops group ( and well placed media friends ) in his own office as PM to discredit his opposition he just did the dirty work himself.
    And yeah petrol is going up and up like we were warned for years that it would and we are paying the price for our addiction.
    I do remember carless days when i was ten years of age and i think our day was Tuesday but people still drove on their carless days which is why i think Muldoon pulled the plug.

  18. esoteric pineapples says:

    As if National could do anything about petrol prices – as they say, “out of the frying pan and into the fire”

  19. What many don’t realise is that as personal and company tax rates have been reduced (seven times since 1986), governments have made up the shortfall with other taxes; gst, excise charges, user government fees, etc. Former Finance Bill English said on numerous occassions that the 2010 tax cuts were “fiscally neutral” (https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/49HansD_20110518_00000001/questions-for-oral-answer-questions-to-ministers/) because the reduction in personal income taxes was “balanced” by the rise in gst.

    Of course, this hit the poorest the worst and high-income earners benefitted the most.

    It means that New Zealanders have to understand that any fall in income tax WILL have to be compensated by any of the following three;

    1. reducing state services

    2. raising other forms of taxation (gst, excise, etc)

    3. borrowing

    Which National did, all three, over the last nine years. (And they raised petrol taxes 3 cents a litre, per year, over three years.)

    So when Simon Bridges calls for tax cuts (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2018/10/simon-bridges-says-surplus-shows-raid-on-back-pockets-demands-govt-lower-taxes.html), New Zealanders should be wary. If they want social and state services to continue, government revenue will have to be raised elsewhere.

    That “elsewhere” is currently at the petrol pumps.

    If petrol hits a symbolic $3/litre, it will make re-election of this coalition unlikely.

  20. Isabel.H says:

    Not one commenter has considered those of us who cannot rely on public transport. I have lived for decades with Multiple Sclerosis – the result of the poisonous neurotoxin: Mercury (in vaccinations I had to have so as to become a NZ Registered Nurse). For all those of you who don’t know, MS involves living with frequent (& devastating) pain DAY & NIGHT! I can’t stand for longer than 3 minutes without being overcome by exhaustion.

    I live as independently as possible. Home helpers aren’t allowed to do all manner of basic cleaning (being a retd NZRN I grit my teeth at their not doing properly even what they’re allowed to do.)

    I need my vehicle to be able to get where I need to go. I can’t walk more than 1km! & that’s with the aid of a walking frame. If I fall over, from balance problem, I could fracture my pelvis &/or my femur. The stats: 25% of women with MS who sustain such a fracture are dead in less than 12 months.

    When the Auckland petrol tax came into “play”, aproximately the same monthly petrol fill-up went from $55 to $75! (I keep a precise record of my day-day expenditure. Have to when Super is one’s only income.)

    Please have a thought/care for us NZers who are not hale & hearty.

    • Mjolnir says:

      “Multiple Sclerosis – the result of the poisonous neurotoxin: Mercury (in vaccinations I had to have so as to become a NZ Registered Nurse)”

      You don’t get mercury in vaccines, Isabel. One of my relations has ms and the cause is unknown.

      “The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown. It’s considered an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. In the case of MS, this immune system malfunction destroys myelin (the fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord).” – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269

      I feel for you, Isabel. But don’t invoke the fake science of vaccines-cause-autism-ms-whatever. It diesn’t help anyone.

  21. Nitrium Nitrium says:

    “$2.40 a litre for gas”

    I have never heard a NZer refer to “petrol” as “gas” until this blog. Is Americanism in NZ such that even boomers are now adopting it?

  22. Isabel.H says:

    Re: Mjolnir says:
    October 10, 2018 at 3:34

    I get really irritated when people like you write/talk about something you clearly know NOTHING ABOUT!

    In 1958, there was very definitely mercury in vaccines & for a considerable number of years after. One (for typhoid fever) caused me to be so ill that I could not go on duty (almost a crime in 1958) & later, another vaccination containing mercury (it was standard then) also caused me to be so sick that again, I could not go on duty.) I’ve had a very highly qualified & experienced allopathic doctor who emigrated from the U.K. hoping that he could practice holistic medicine here (but couldn’t because here in NZ, it was/is as bad as in the U.K.,) acknowledge to me that mercury is the cause of the M.S. I’ve lived wth for decades, (but I’d already worked that out myself). None of my 4 siblings had any of the vaccinations I had to have if I wanted to become a NZRN. None of them have any auto-immune, incurable diseases. I have lived with 2 for decades. By 1965 my health was destroyed. There is no history of MS in my family. I didn’t even work for a 1/4 of the usual work life of a RN – I was so often ill & by age 45 simply couldn’t continue to do the work that I loved.

    The truth that the polio vaccine that many NZers (including me) received in 1962 was contaminated with SV-40 was known to NZ govts for many years, but not revealed to the NZ public. The tatty Weekly Truth made that fact public around 1981, about 20 years after the fact. That vaccine should never have been given to anyone in this country!

    If you would read a vaccine insert (downloadable), you would learn that there are ‘ingredients’ in vaccines STILL that should never be injected into the human body. Animal cells should never be injected into the body. Aluminium should NEVER be injected into the human body. Such ‘ingredients’ (bar aluminium) should only be ingested, but very few allopathic ‘doctors’ will own that what I’ve written here is TRUTH.

    Recommended: Dr Suzanne Humfries – articles & videos.

  23. Johnnybg says:

    Best thing that ever happened, whack the price up another few bucks & we’ll finally get some real revolutionary action & chaos in our streets.

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