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Interview with Jacinda Ardern, Labour Party spokesperson on Social Development and Children

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slider-JA_Park-shot2We have 270 000 children in poverty, a real unemployment rate in double figures and the highest inequality on record yet according to the latest Roy Morgan Poll, National are more popular today than they were on election night. Why has the land of egalitarianism turned its back on the poor?
I think that’s a fair question. What are we doing to make sure that we put a bit more collectivism into our voting, and this has been a long term battle by the left of the Party to try and ensure that when we reach the voting that we are getting into that vote, the question is whether or not that vote is paying it forward. Whether or not a vote for a tax cut is ultimately going to create a detrimental effect in our wider community and that ultimately is what happened in the last election.

Now I don’t think though its fair to say that its just about individualism and voting because actually by voting for a more collectivist approach all of us do better and that’s the kind of thing that books like the Spirit level have bourne out. So I’m not going to shy away from continuing to make that point, I live in Auckland Central and despite the fact that we tend to have a bit more deprivation in the inner city I have got to try and create a more collectivist approach to what we’re doing to ensure all of our communities are healthy.

We know the Government need to distract from bad news when they start bennie bashing. Why do we love to attack those on welfare so much?
Actually I went through an exercise after the last welfare announcement because we all talk about the fact that you see welfare reform when things are going badly for them and I thought that I might do a bit of a check and there is absolutely a correlation. Be it class sizes, be it ACC, be it dodgy Sky City pokie deals. Those have been the times when they suddenly make their welfare announcements.

We must stop, we do have to call time on Political Parties and it has happened time to time across the political parties. They have a tendency to pick on issues that resonate and the question is why does it resonate? What happened to our social security system that now leads the Human Rights Commissioner to declare beneficiaries as some of the most discriminated individuals.

I think that means that we need to come back to a place where we recognize our social security exists for all NZers at any given time in our lives, any one of us may require it and to continue to label and make assumptions about those who access social security actually harms the system for all of us.

It comes down to political leadership.

The working poor look at the pathetic hourly minimum wage and look at the welfare cheque with envy. Instead of blaming the union busting neoliberal policies of the early 1990s under National to explain why they get such a paltry amount, the working poor blame beneficiaries. How does Labour appeal to the better angels of their nature?
Something strange has happened, we now have this, what some people call ‘downward facing envy’. I think it is about inserting reality back into our discussions about what it is to have a life on social security. Actually that’s the wrong turn of phrase because it isn’t a life, it’s an existence.

But you are right to point out that for those who live on low income, on minimum wage do have a similar struggle. For instance when I talk about sole parent support, the amount some are on. I often ask my National Party colleagues how much is that and many do not know that a core main benefit rate for a sole parent is $293 per week before housing costs. Now to have a situation where people see that as something to envy says a) there is something deeply wrong about the way we perceive social security and b) that our working poor also need to be lifted up so that’s where lifting the minimum wage and sliding towards the living wage comes in. But also making sure that people are surviving on Government support.

In retrospect was the beneficiary on the roof analogy used by David Shearer misplaced?
Look it’s certainly not an anecdote that I would have used but I think David was making a separate point about the way some NZers had reflected to him. But I have said our biggest challenge is to push back against some of those assumptions for the betterment of all of us who at any time in our lives may need to access Government support and also push on some of the assumptions around the reasons why some may need to access them. At the moment I am embroiled in a battle over protecting beneficiary access service groups. You may wonder why we need something like that? Because we may assume that it’s a form of support open to everyone but at the moment access to Government support is very difficult.

I’ve heard of cases of someone who has tried to commit suicide multiple times who on their attempt to become well have sought Government support to survive and have been denied a sickness benefit.

I’ve heard of partners of terminal cancer patients who have sought Government support so they can tend to their partners in the last weeks of their lives being denied. Any fair minded NZer would have thought the system exists for those people and in many cases it doesn’t. We need to defend and uphold our expectations of what real social security should be.

What do you personally think of Paula Bennett?
I am fairly generous to most politicians in that I think that most of us want to do the job we do because we want to make positive change, and I would say that probably extends to Paula Bennett as well. I don’t agree though with the trajectory she is taking our social security system and I think that it is even more destructive because knowing she has accessed the services. She knows what a life on social security is like and yet some of the things that I think are important have been taken away.

Is she a hypocrite for taking away from other solo mothers an allowance that she herself benefitted from?
I get asked that a lot and everyone will have their own answers on that. My view is that I don’t improve anyone’s lot by gunning for her individually as a person but I will whole heatedly gun for the policies that she puts up. I didn’t agree with her changing the training incentive allowance and Labour will reinstate it. People certainly did draw out the point that she had accessed those services and have put labels on her. But ultimately I want to change the system and attacking her personally won’t do that.

Did Bennett show how out of touch she was when even after being reprimanded by the Human Rights Commission, to go on and claim that she would release personal information again if confronted with the same situation?
I don’t know if that is an example of being out of touch or an example of just holding a different set of values when it comes to how you operate. That’s certainly not how I would operate. It has changed peoples willingness to be upfront about what they are experiencing. As an opposition MP I constantly hear stories that you would be astounded by but I can’t share them. I’m not willing to put someone in that situation unless that is what they want to do, people are afraid. So it has changed I think peoples willingness to talk and share experiences.

Was her choice of being on Michael Laws’ talk hate radio show to discuss limiting solo mums from having children the sort of public dialogue a Minister of the Crown should engage in?
I’ve been on Michael Laws’ [show] so I’m not sure it’s the actual being on the show, but it certainly was a political act, there is no doubt. My biggest beef was with the policy itself. It could have been announced on Radio NZ and it still would have been wrong.

By lifting the thresholds to disqualify people from welfare, isn’t Paula simply hiding our poverty rather than than confronting it?
Yes I think we are in an interesting situation at the moment, you may have seen over the weekend that I challenged the Minister on the success of her welfare reforms because time after time she has stood up and said that the numbers demonstrate that her welfare reforms are working and I could no longer sit back and let that stand when it’s not true. Numbers have gone up under Paula Bennett, and in the areas where she is increasing sanctions. The flip side of that and I really want to be clear on is that I’ve used the numbers to demonstrate that her reform approach was wrong. When you’ve got a situation of high unemployment and all you are changing is the amount of time you are work testing someone and your sanctions, of course you are not going to improve anyones lot. At the same time though we’ve got to make sure that those people who need our social security system can access it and that is also not happening.

I am seeing more and more young people turned away when they have legitimate need. I see young people being told they won’t be able to access support unless they go on a boot camp style course. So we have a Minister who is not providing services and turning away those in need and I can’t let her get away with claiming success with such a punitive regime when that success does not exist.

With the partners of welfare fraud now being targeted, when will the Government move on rich housewives who know their wealthy husbands are avoiding tax?
I asked Chester Burrows this last year and he said it was different because tax fraud occurs away from the home. That is not a rationale that I buy. We want an equitable approach and it should apply to everyone and that will be what we will be battling for in select committee.

As the spokesperson on Social Development and Children, what is your pledge to those 270 000 kids in poverty?
We’ve got to do something differently and that is our absolute ambition. But instead of taking an approach which the Government has of waiting for the market to fix things and focusing solely on children being abused, we want to lift the well being of all children and thats where our thinking is in developing our policy.

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In the 2pm Daily Blog Bulletin…

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In the 2pm Daily Blog Bulletin…

Lynn Prentice at the Standard asks some hard questions of how quickly those registering for Shares are having their details passed along to a sharebroking firm.

Morgan Godfery looks at the impact on Maori radicalism from the court process.

Karol notes the passing of Hugo Chavez.

Gareth Renowden highlights the reality of climate change.

Queen of Thorns steps up for white feminists.

Chris Trotter blogs on the problems Labour in Australia and NZ are facing.

Martyn Bradbury checks out how Patrick Gower uses baseless polls to thread a nonsense narrative.

And the days reposts are Elevator Murder experiment, Top 10 tips on how to end rape and Hitler buys shares in Might River Power.

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The View From Rooty Hill

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WHO THE HELL booked Julia Gillard into a hotel at “Rooty Hill”?

As if the beleaguered and deeply unpopular Aussie PM hasn’t enough troubles, her erstwhile supporters in the rest of Australia have just been given the punch line for a thousand water-cooler jokes.

Brilliant work, whoever!

That Gillard has been booked in for a whole week at Rooty Hill is evidence of how seriously her strategists are taking the polling data which now suggests the ALP could lose up to nine West Sydney seats.

As Kiwiblog’s David Farrar puts it: “Losing West Sydney is like losing West Auckland for NZ Labour.”

And NZ Labour is doing just that.

Labour lost the Waitakere seat in 2008, and if David Cunliffe decides to walk away from politics, or, more dangerously (but much less likely) puts himself at the head of a breakaway party, New Lynn could well be next.

Why is it that formerly core Labour voting areas – both here and in Australia – can no longer simply be marked down in the red column as “Safe”?

There are multiple causes for Labour’s (and Labor’s) electoral base falling out of love with the party of mum, dad, grandpa, grandma, and mad old Uncle Wally. The decline of factory-based employment. Teenagers spending longer at school. The vast expansion of tertiary education and the aspirational inflation that goes with it.

In Australia it’s also important to factor-in the corrosive effects of years of political and union corruption. In New South Wales it led to a crushing Labor defeat at the last state elections. It was an emphatic repudiation of everything the party had come to stand for: a disaster which many Labor strategists fear will be repeated in this year’s federal elections.

The most significant factor in Labour’s and Labor’s long decline, however, is the loss (some would say the jettisoning) of their radical mojo.

In Australia and New Zealand the labour movement – in both its industrial and political guise – used to be about the sort of change that leaves human-beings, societies and economies transformed. From their beginnings in the millennial working-class movements of the Nineteenth Century, labour parties were convinced that they could – to quote the last lines of the old union song, Solidarity Forever – “bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old”.

Oh yes, of course, they were also about a whole lot more mundane things: better wages; improved working conditions; public health and education; industrial development; but these reforms were incidental to the new heaven and the new earth that “democratic socialists” fervently believed Labour – and Labour alone – had the power to build.

Among the rank-and-file of the New Zealand and Australian labour parties there are many who continue to cling to these emancipatory and transformational ideals, but the parliamentary wings of Labour and Labor gave up on democratic socialism forty years ago.

After Kirk’s death and the Muldoon tsunami in New Zealand, and following the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor Government by the Australian Governor-General in 1975, Labour MPs in both countries decided that the powers-that-be would never again look upon their party as an existential threat to the capitalist status-quo.

Labour would no longer represent an alternative way of life, merely an alternative set of economic and social managers. Radicalism in office was not ruled out, but if and when it was applied it would only ever be on behalf of making the existing regime more effective and efficient for the people and corporations who owned it.

Labor’s strategists were convinced that this was the sort of party the upwardly mobile working-class Australians living in Rooty Hill were looking for. A Labor Party that could guarantee them a new house, a second car, and wages high enough to pay the kids’ school fees.

Hawke and Keating did just that – and little Johnny Howard and his Liberals made sure they kept it.

New Zealand didn’t fare so well. But, even here, enough people benefited from the big economic changes of the 1980s, to rule out any return by Labour to the politics of Savage and Kirk.

And yet … and yet … something is missing from the political equation. That sense of high and wonderful risk; of our collective reach exceeding our individual grasp; of there being something more to human existence than simply “ the beamer, the bach and the boat” which now appears to define the limits of Kiwi aspiration.

The voters, in some mental space they seldom visit, or even acknowledge, catch the echoes of that old Peggy Lee standard:

Is that all there is? Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing,
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.
If that’s all there is.

But, sadly, if that’s all there is, they won’t be dancing with Labor – or Labour.

Chris Trotter blogs at Bowalley Road

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A rising tide sinks cities

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There is a huge and growing disconnect between what we’re doing to our planet, and what we’re doing about it. Climate policy in New Zealand — and in just about every other nation in the world — is out of touch with what we know is happening, and where we know we’re heading. Politicians of all stripes operate in a big bubble of unreality that allows them to believe that an emissions trading scheme that doesn’t reduce emissions is a good thing, that difficult decisions can be left for the future, and that economic growth — business as usual — is the only way forward. That bubble needs to be burst, and here’s why.

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Taking the heat out of the Maori radical movement

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“In the Supreme Court of New Zealand… we dismiss the appeal”  

 

You know when you’re reading a judgment of note. They’re artistic and intellectual.  The more elegant and stylistic Courts weave legal narratives with fables, religious imagery and – in those rare cases – pop culture reference. “In the Supreme Court of New Zealand” we enjoy… well… at least they’re easy to read.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the Crown’s decision to partially privatise Mighty River Power is reviewable for compliance with s45Q – the Treaty clause. However, the Court found that asset sales will not impair to a material extent the Crown’s ability to resolve Maori wai rights.

It’s important to note that the Court did find that partially privatising power generating SOEs would impair the Crown’s ability to resolve Maori wai rights, but any impairment had to be balanced against other considerations. In finding against impairment to a material extent the Court noted the “extensive” consultation, promises and undertakings made by the Crown. In concluding the Court comments that:

 

“The appellants have failed as to the ultimate result, they nonetheless succeeded on an important point of principle, namely that the Crown was bound to comply with the principles of the Treaty”

 

Meh. Carwyn Jones notes that the Court delivered an “important re-strengthening of Treaty principles”. (It’s also worth noting that in reaching their decision the Court relied on the government’s promises and undertakings presented in evidence. In other words, the Court has given formal effect to those promises and undertakings – the government must honour them).

Law aside, the more important question to consider is more esoteric. Are judicial decisions responsible for taking the fire out of the Maori radical movement?

Indigenous sovereignty movements are burning bright and fierce. The Idle No More movement is reclaiming indigenous sovereignty and redefining the Nation to Nation relationship. Radical in intent and strategy, Idle No More might transform Canada’s constitutional order. The Aboriginal people of Australia are inching towards positive constitutional recognition and the embers of indigenous sovereignty are igniting across Spanish-speaking South America. In New Zealand, however, Maori are submitting to co-option. The Supreme Court’s decision, like Treaty settlements, is another way of co-opting Maori into the system.

Judicial decisions are made on colonial terms. Indigenous values and systems can be accommodated, so long as they are neither “repugnant” to the common law nor inconsistent with statute law. Court action requires Maori to accept that the only aspects or forms of tino rangatiratanga that will be and are capable of being recognised are those that can be couched in a western framework. Anything that can’t, well, it’s not on the table. The same principle applies to Treaty settlements. You meet on the government’s terms*. The government dictates the rules, makes the offer and induces the settlement under duress. If tino rangatiratanga is the question, the Courts aren’t the answer.

Court action is the pragmatic solution**, apparently, but it’s not the principled solution. And with every win for pragmatism, the relevance of the Maori radical movement – and the Maori systems that it stands for – is diminished and the principles of tino rangatiratanga are eroded.

 

 

*See the Red Book from Crown Law.

**For the record, I place myself somewhere between a being a Maori realist and a Maori radical. And yes, that’s deliberately ambiguous.

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The leaps and bounds of Patrick Gower – how the spin is spun

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Patrick Gower’s latest blog is a test case example of how the mainstream media spin a reality that may or may not be based beyond their keyboard.

It is six weeks into the political year, and the Opposition finds itself waking up in those all-too familiar cold sweats.
For Labour, the Greens, Hone Harawira (and to a lesser extent, Winston Peters) the recurring bad dream is all too real: John Key is back on top again.
Yes, Key is in control once again – at a massive 51.4 percent in the 3 News/Reid Research poll.

STOP. We are 66 odd words in, and Patrick has another 1000 words brewing that all hang on his assertion that the 51.4% support for National is legit.

So is it? In the month of the 2011 election, the 3 News/Reid Research poll took 3 polls over the 3 weeks leading up to the election. Remember, National gained 47.3%. In the first poll 3 News/Reid Research gave National 53.3%, in the second poll 3 News/Reid Research gave National 50.3% and in the 3rd poll 3 News/Reid Research gave National 50.8%. They were out by 6%, 3% and 3.5%. Their margin of error was 3.1%

They were over their own margin of error twice in the month of the election, what the 3 News/Reid Research Poll has to say on any issue is about as dubious as Ken Ring’s earthquake and fishing to the apocalypse almanac predictions.

Gower spends the next 1000 words spinning a narrative to explain why Key is so popular according to a Poll that was outside their own margin of error twice in the month of the bloody election.

The 3 News/Reid Research Poll is gin soaked bullshit wrapped in a napkin of subjective crap and yet here is the top political head kicker of a TV Network effectively coming up with excuses as to why Key is so popular, he’s writing the spin for John Key. Gower is spinning the narrative all based on a poll that simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny of how it performed in the last election.

I won’t even bother with the rest of his argument when the bridge he’s built to justify his conclusion is held together by snot and hope.

Gower isn’t giving an educated opinion, he is white noise.

[poll id=”29″]

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Hitler plans to buy shares in Mighty River Power

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Hitler plans to buy shares in Mighty River Power

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10 Top Tips to End Rape

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10 Top Tips to End Rape

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Elevator Murder Experiment

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Elevator Murder Experiment

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NBR vs Duncan Garner

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In an attempt to belittle Duncan Garner for Radio Live’s wrong call on the Maori Water Rights ruling, the NBR decided to announce Duncan Garner’s death behind a pay wall.

Now as someone who was caught out by Radio Live’s breaking news text…

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…I love any stick going their way for their miscue, but to announce Garner’s death as a tongue and cheek piece behind a paywall is pretty dirty tactics.

Allowing Garner’s family to think for any period of time that Duncan was dead is just a nasty thing to do. The NBR have taken the link down now as the ramifications of their distastefulness resonate around social media, but they should at the very least publicly apologize for this ugliness.

In wanting to mock Garner for Radio Live’s gaff, the NBR has managed to be grossly insensitive. The National Business Review should perhaps stick to pimping for the 1% rather than satire. They don’t have the EQ for the latter and lack the IQ to challenge the former.

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I had no idea listening to Anika Moa could make me a lesbian

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Church uncomfortable with Moa’s ‘lifestyle’

Singer Anika Moa has had to switch venues for her Wairarapa concert because an evangelical church objected to her sexuality.

She was due to perform at Masterton’s Lighthouse Church on March 23, but promoter Mark Rogers said it became clear after the booking was made that some members of the church were not comfortable with hosting her.

Moa came out as a lesbian in 2007 and has been in a civil union with Australian burlesque dancer Azaria Universe since 2010.

Mr Rogers said the church was suffering from “sapphic paranoia” and was “unhappy” with what it called Moa’s “lifestyle”.

I had no idea listening to Anika Moa could make me a lesbian, what a bonus! I am now buying all her CDs!

Anika is a cultural treasure and one really has to wonder the sort of God one would have to worship who would find Anika’s passionate songs of love and joy and life anything to be unhappy about.

Ironically those most pushing her away are probably the ones who most need to hear her music.

I’m pretty certain that Jesus would have Anika Moa on his i-pod.

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In the 2pm Daily Blog Bulletin…

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In the 2pm Daily Blog Bulletin…

Coley Tangerina argues why NZ is no country for women.

Anthony Robins at The Standard asks how bad things have to get with climate change before we do anything about it.

Martyn Bradbury questions John Key’s vast promises of wealth and rainbows.

Giovanni Tiso at Bat, Bean, Beam channels my favorite movie Network by asking if the internet has side stepped the mainstream media in influencing politics.

Chris Trotter asks what the opportunity cost of David Shearer’s leadership is.

Gordon Campbell highlights the insidious neoliberal orthodoxy of the NZ Herald in their description of Key’s visit to South America and asks why we won’t be adopting their lead in resisting the Washington Consensus.

Steve Gray asks if our Journalists are being honest with their bias and influences.

The Daily Blog interview Russel Norman on the economy and politics and ask who has curtailed green ambition most, Labour or NZ First.

The Daily Blog reposts today: Tim Minchin – the Pope song (terribly offensive) & the hidden cost of hamburgers

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The Opportunity Cost Of David Shearer

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DAVID SHEARER’S “not sure” that the case for public ownership of state assets “stacks up”.

Quizzed on the subject by RadioLive’s Duncan Garner, the Labour leader refused to commit an incoming Labour-led government to repurchasing the privatised shares in the state’s energy generators, Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy.

Garner had made the proposition easy for him by pointing to the billions of dollars currently sitting untouched in the so-called Cullen Fund.

“Why don’t you commit, if these things are so important to you, to using the Cullen Fund to buy these back?” Garner asked.

It was at this point that Shearer responded: “You’re going to forego income on some other level if you go ahead and do that … I wouldn’t want to do that because I’m not sure that the economic argument stacks up, Duncan. That’s the first thing. And, secondly, I don’t know what the books are going to look like in 2014. To make a an enormous commitment like that – I mean we’re talking in the order of billions of dollars – in order to try and get some of those dividends that we would be losing as a result of selling up the assets today.”

Okay, fair enough, the Leader of the Opposition’s assessing the opportunity cost of spending billions of dollars on the repurchase of the state-owned energy generators – as opposed to investing the same amount in other kinds of state-owned assets such as the public education system, the health system or public transport.

But, wait a minute, isn’t that precisely the argument of the Minister of Finance, Bill English? Doesn’t he point to the parlous state of the Government’s books and ask us to indicate where, in the absence of National’s partial privatisation programme, he’s supposed to get the money for new schools, hospitals and roads?

One answer, of course, might be to reverse Mr English’s 2010 tax cuts – and then impose a swingeing surtax on the incomes of the top one percent of income earners.

Of course that sort of policy is unlikely to recommend itself to a National Party finance minister. A Labour leader, on the other hand, should have little difficulty in signing-up to such measures.

A more progressive fiscal policy would go a long way towards meeting the objections against repurchasing the energy companies which Mr Shearer raised with Duncan Garner.

Besides, repurchasing the assets would not represent a loss to the state, however they were re-acquired. They’d remain, after all, just that – assets – and would be represented as such on the Government’s books.

New Zealand governments of the future would be able to borrow against such valuable properties – offsetting the cost of the loans with the energy companies’ dividends.

The truly frustrating aspect of Mr Shearer’s comments (apart from their deeply demoralising effect on Labour Party members and supporters) is that they demonstrate such a low level of tactical skill.

Had his leadership of the Labour Party begun with a clear and unequivocal promise to repurchase – at cost – any assets sold by the National-led Government, then the entire partial privatisation programme would have been rendered moot.

What would have been the point of investing in a package of shares which the incoming government was going to immediately and compulsorily repurchase? Overseas and institutional interest would have been nil. The whole policy would have been a dead letter.

Mr Shearer’s comments are further proof (if proof is still required) of the man’s ideological orthodoxy, economic passivity and political timidity.

No wonder the Right is so determined to keep him exactly where he is.

Perhaps it’s time to calculate the opportunity cost of David Shearer?

Chris Trotter blogs at Bowalley Road

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Tim Minchin – The Pope Song (warning: terribly offensive)

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Tim Minchin – The Pope Song (warning: terribly offensive)

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Hidden costs of hamburgers

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Hidden costs of hamburgers

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