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Potential and promise

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Saturday’s election was highly anticipated – we might say – over-anticipated, after an extended campaign that left the public, and both Party leaders apparently exhausted. But it was important not to take the occasion for granted –some people specially dressed up for the honour and privilege of voting, and others took time to reflect on the referenda for which they have campaigned for years.

At our election, there were no threats of violence, no potential bombs in the carpark, no intimidation, no bribes (if you discount New Zealand First’s usual operating model). Lines in and out were orderly, and hygienic; we had confidence there was no Covid, no vote rigging, no corruption.  Even the conspiracy theorists and their illegitimate arguments were able to formally organise into political parties and get their names on the ballot in a legitimate attempt at power.

We are lucky with our orderly civil society, organisational capacity that leads to efficient voting systems (even if they ran out of special vote papers in Auckland Central). Even though our democratic system hasn’t tended to serve the young, Maori, Pasifika and other disenfranchised groups terribly well, it is better than many. These groups have at least been represented in the major parties, though perhaps in token, relatively powerless ways. I’m glad to see the Maori Party back, with Rawiri Waititi in the Waiariki seat, with his mana and his moko. If we can’t have a Maori Party specifically represented in our Parliament, where in the world can we?  Chlöe Swarbrick winning Auckland Central was another highlight – unanticipated, exciting, confounding polls, and also providing hope that the predictions that the cannabis referendum will fail, are also wrong.

More than 82% of the population voluntarily  voted, (without coercion), we now have almost 50% gender parity among our MPs, and a new cohort of 40 (!!) ethnically, gender and demographically diverse candidates, even though National’s decimation has impacted its diversity in the process. As they joined their Party leaders on stage on Saturday night, or assembled on Parliament’s steps on Monday, the new MPs looked eager, idealistic, bright eyed, star-struck and caught in the headlights of often unexpected, life-changing success.

Because of this process, we can and do have a high level of confidence in the electoral and representative legitimacy of New Zealand’s 53rd Parliament – even where the results have been surprising, and have upended old alliances and sinecures. Such a significant influx of new MPs signals a generation change in Parliament.

The election was not just a rush to Labour. It was a rush away from National. And despite some of the mixed views about Jacinda’s performance, it’s clear the die was cast for Labour victory, well before, and beyond the Leaders’ Debates. The election was decided not just on the pantomimes on TV but also by the performance of the parties in the prior three years. The train wreck that was the National Party -Jamie-Lee Ross, Hamish Rutherford, Andrew Falloon, the revolving door of leaders, Judith’s mistimed comments about obesity-, all had its own inertia that took National over the cliff.

Some observers have simply attributed Labour’s resounding victory to (Jacinda’s) “management of Covid”. It’s true that the public clearly want a Covid hero, one who looks good, is competent, science based, relatable, inspirational, communicative, empathetic and authentic, and Jacinda has all that in spades.  But to say that all the success is down to Covid, is to belittle the other reasons for the Party’s success – including, primarily, National’s failure. Other reasons include the inertia of the status quo, and middle New Zealand’s confidence in it. This year, with global fires, droughts and pandemic, most of us rightly want the security of competent continuity, and there’s great reassurance in just continuing after the election as we did before it. It’s easier to imagine the end of the world, than it is to imagine the end of capitalism and our way of life.

Since the election, there’s been so much speculation. “Will Kelvin Davis (“who fades into the foreground”) be Deputy Prime Minister, rather than the ‘real’ Deputy, Grant Robertson?” “Will Jacinda include senior Green Party members among her Ministers, inside or outside Cabinet?” -As they weren’t included inside Cabinet when their numbers were more important to the Coalition, it was always highly unlikely now they’re not needed – and that’s been confirmed. And should the Green Party even seek to shackle its fortunes to Labour, or should it stay in Opposition?

As National’s ‘elderly statesmen’ Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith, have lost their electorate seats in this changing of the guard, some suggest it’s time for them to resign altogether. It might also be that some of the longer standing, more conservative Labour Party MPs should move on and let the fresh blood rise up too. But instead, this election may have empowered the conservative wing in Labour. The apparent strategic voting of otherwise National Party voters, in supporting Labour to keep the Greens out, is likely to strengthen the arm of MPs like Damian O’Connor. Given the support from farmers and industry, it’s hard to see that Labour are conceived as Left at all. And as it has been said, now that the ‘handbrake’ of New Zealand First is gone, it’s just Labour’s own handbrake that remains. Jacinda has talked about her mandate, and it comes from middle New Zealand, not otherwise represented by the Green Party or Act; it’s such a broad church it entails prospects of paralysis. While Jacinda hasn’t used her political capital to do much so far, I’m sure she has plenty enough of it that voters will forgive her, for a while, for not using it in the future. One way to keep people happy is to not do much at all. But for other more optimistic believers, there is hope.

Jacinda says she wants policies that stick. Enduring policies, and that transformation occurs one step at a time. But to address inequality, housing unaffordability and poverty, as well as climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental damage, that get worse every day, some could argue that the necessary steps are big ones. And slow steps aren’t necessarily more enduring than quick ones, they just make the targets slower and harder to reach. Many initiatives suggested as solutions to these problems have Labour-imposed deadlines that are beyond the term of this new government, and the next, and like the debt incurred by the wage subsidy, leave legacies for the future as well as costs for today. So while voting on Saturday felt like an historic opportunity – as it always does and should – in the scale of time and the eternal struggle for power- history will judge whether it – and the Labour Party, live up to their potential and promise.

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2020 – Post mortem or Prologue?

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election 2020

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A narcissistic, third-rate, Bond-villain code-named “Trump” takes control of the United States; a global pandemic brings human civilisation to a near stand-still; Whakaari/White Island erupts creating a hellish tragedy; Level 4 and 3 Lockdowns result in deserted streets straight out of The Quiet Earth; a new “Fortress New Zealand” is erected in a valiant struggle to keep a deadly virus from our shores, and an election result no one could ever have predicted… No “reality TV” could possibly hope to match 2020 (or the last twelve months).

This will be one for the history books.

And folks, we had front row seats…

National

A series of political polls on both major TV networks had Labour consistently ahead of National. Despite three leaders in as many years, the “natural party of governance”  was failing to govern itself. More critically, it was failing to connect with most New Zealanders.

A series of “mis-steps” – too   numerous   to   mention – cemented public impressions that National was in dis-array; rudderless; riven with leaks, in-fighting, and intrigue. Worse still, their Finance Spokesperson – Paul Goldsmith – demonstrated his own incredible incompetence with a series of arithmetical blunders in the party’s economic plan.

The errors quickly mounted, passing eight billion dollars, mocking National’s so-called reputation for being “sound managers of the economy”.

Judith Collin’s antagonistic leadership – a stark contrast to Prime Minister Ardern’s more inclusive, up-beat style – appealed to the National base but failed to gain traction with the rest of Aotearoa  New Zealand.

Her carping criticism often made little sense when one looked deeper into her utterances. Child poverty was a classic example of Ms Collins’ contradictory position.

On the one hand, she criticised the Labour-led coalition for not addressing child poverty in the last three years;

“It is correct, and if you look at kids living in material hardship, which means they can’t get to a doctor and things like that, are 4100 more than when she took office.

If you talk to the food banks they will tell you things have got worse, they haven’t got better. So when you’re talking about transformational change, it has just got worse.”

But then, Ms Collins also inadvertently confirmed that child poverty simply could not be solved in a single three year term,

“We would love to do that too, actually.”

She was agreeing Labour’s goal of halving child poverty rates by 2030 – a decade away. In effect confirming the magnitude of the problem.

It was this kind of kneejerk “I-can-do-better-than-you” that added to uncertainties around Judith Collins’ credibility

Added to that was National’s promise of a tax cut. The ill-considered policy has been well-traversed, but the most salient points were;

    1. The proposed tax cuts would be funded through the $14 billion Covid recovery fund set aside to pay for another outbreak and possible lockdown
    2. The tax cuts would cost $4.7 billion
    3. The Covid Recovery fund is borrowed money
    4. The tax cuts would benefit high income earners the most; someone on $70,000 would gain $3226 – $45.50 per week; someone on minimum wage would gain $560 – or $8.10 per week.

The tax cuts were “temporary”, according to National’s Finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith – from 1 December this year and expiring 31 March 2022.  Though it is difficult to see Mr Goldsmith (or his successor) raising taxes back to pre-election levels after the expiry date.

National’s tax-cut would be nothing less than a bribe to high-income Middle Class. Those on low incomes would receive very little – less than the cost of a 1KG block of cheese.

When challenged by Jack Tame on TVNZ’s Q+A why the proposed tax cuts were not directed more at lower-income earners who would spend it, thereby stimulating the economy, Mr Goldsmith showed how out-of-touch he really was with the “Ordinary Kiwi Battler”;

“It’s their [high income earners] own money that we’re going to be returning to them.

Yeah, they’ll get some extra money, and we want to put some extra money into the hands of people who are working hard.”

Firstly, it’s not “their money”. It is borrowed money. Borrowed money which Judith Collins has been at pains to remind us will have to be re-paid by our children (and grand-children!). This was the same rationale  used by National to demand that borrowed money not be re-invested in Aotearoa’s superannuation fund;

“An obvious place to start is suspending new payments to the New Zealand Super Fund for the next four years. That alone would reduce core crown debt by $9 billion over four years.

[…]

The actions we will take today could leave a legacy of debt for future generations. We are making choices that will impact them tomorrow.

Such levels of debt would leave our children and grandchildren – and also ourselves – profoundly vulnerable to the inevitable next shock.”

In effect, Mr Goldsmith was willing to use borrowed money to spray around well paid, upper middle class for a tax-cut bribe – but not to invest in the super fund which actually creates wealth. This is not what one would expect from a supposedly “responsible manager of the economy”.

Secondly; Mr Goldsmith’s suggestion that cutting taxes for higher income earners rather than those on minimum wage because they are “people who are working hard” was an insult to those supermarket workers; truck drivers; warehouse staff, pharmacy staff, et al, who carried on working during the covid lockdown so we could be fed and our medication regimes maintained.

Any low-paid worker listening to Mr Goldsmith would have understood the signal they had just been sent: two raised fingers.

Three televised debates on TV1 and TV3 were lauded by National apparatchiks as “victories” for Ms Collins. But the rest of the country seemed not to share that conclusion. National continued to languish in low 30s in one political poll after another.

The more rabid Ms Collins became, the less appealing to voters.

Just how unappealing her leadership was to the great majority quickly became apparent on Election Night.

Almost immediately, Labour’s Party vote rocketed to 51%, and National plumetted to between 26 and 27%.

Something preternatural was taking place before our eyes.

An hour after polls had closed, my sense that something unimaginable was taking place led me to post this prediction on Twitter;

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The second and third predictions are yet to become reality – more on that shortly.

Today (20 October), National will hold it’s Party Caucus of what remains of it’s Parliamentary team. There will be many empty seats in the room. But all eyes will be on Judith Collins, who once stated that 35% was the tipping point for failure for a Party Leader.

On election night, National sank like a stone to 26.8% – 8.2 percentage points below her own standard for failure;

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election 2020 nz

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Judith Collins has steadfastly rejected calls to honour her commitment to resign despite Saturday’s election results being the worst since 2002.  In that year National’s vote collapsed to a disastrous 20.93%.

Instead, she resorted to a shot-gun of blames, pointing her finger at the second lock-down; at her own MPs;  other people; and especially the fault of covid19;

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When pointedly asked if she took any responsibility for National’s loss, she replied;

“I take absolute responsibility for working every single day and night for the campaign and also making sure that wherever we were asked to we were always there, but that’s what I’ve done, I’ve actually worked my little socks off.”

Which was hilariously ironic. Only five days earlier, she had demanded others take responsibility for their “personal choices”;

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Judith Collins says obesity is a weakness

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By contrast, former Prime Minister Helen Clark resigned as Leader of the Labour on election night in 2008.

For the public, this was another un-subtle sign that Judith Collins was not fit to be Prime Minister. Her lack of empathy; questionable judgement; and “Muldoonish” malice was in polar opposite to the empathetic and positive Jacinda Ardern who had led us through terrorist attack, natural disaster, and an ongoing pandemic.

National MP – and one-time contender for Party leadership – Mark Mitchell, was having none of Ms Collins’ judgementalistic rubbish, and called her out on it;

“Some obesity is related to medical conditions, even psychological conditions that need treating, so it’s a more complex issue.”

This was yet another public spat between National figures.

Furthermore, Mr Mitchell’s appearance on TVNZ’s Q+A on 18 October – the day after the election – was a stand-out performance. His measured, calm demeanour was pretty much what New Zealanders expect from their political leaders.

If Judith Collins is “Muldoonish”, then Mark Mitchell was more “Jim Bolger”.

But more curiously, why was Mark Mitchell appearing on Q+A, to represent the National Party? Where was Party Leader, Judith Collins? Why was she not fronting to answer Jack “James” Tame’s questions?

I was reminded of Q+A on 12 July, when National’s then-Deputy Leader, Nikki Kaye, fronted for an interview instead of then-Leader, Todd Muller. Two days later, we understood why: Mr Muller had stepped down as Party Leader as he faced a personal health crisis.

The next Leader of the National Party will most likely be Mark Mitchell and it will happen sometime next year.

The public must have looked aghast at National lack of self-discipline and its apparent determination to self-destruct at every opportunity.

Destabilising leadership changes; on-going shambles within National; an incoherent economic message;  were but a few reasons why voters deserted that Party.

More simply, New Zealanders did not trust National to keep them safe from covid.

National is a Party that has consistently branded itself as the Party for private enterprise; pro-business; and Economic Managers. It has been the political DNA of that party since it’s inception.

And business interests – led by vociferous agitators such as Universities; tourist industry; and especially Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Barnett  – have been demanding that the economy be kept open so their capitalist enterprises can continue to make a profit.

New Zealanders have eyes and we have seen what happens overseas when “wealth takes priority over health”: people get sick and people die.

How long before National caved to business calls to further open up the economy, despite the risks of reintroducing covid19? I would give it less than six months.

New Zealanders trusted Prime Minister Ardern to stand up to the business community. They had no such trust in Judith Collins.

In final analysis, National had nothing of substance to offer voters. It had “answers” – but not answers to the questions now confronting us as a nation. They were answers that may have been valid for the Global Financial Crisis (and even that is highly questionable) – but not for a virus.

Labour was fighting a 2020 election.

National was still in 2017.

Green Party

Unlike several political pundits and media commentators, I had little doubt the Greens would be back in Parliament. In fact, once Special Votes are counted, they may pick up one or two extra MPs. After “Specials” were counted in 2017, Labour and the Greens each gained an extra MP, with National losing two (Nicola Willis and Maureen Pugh).

National’s hurt may yet get worse.

Chlöe  Swarbrick’s election may yet be a sign of things to come as younger generations of New Zealanders learn to flex their electoral “muscle” and finally take on the Baby Boomers and their housing empire. Ms Swarbrick is one to watch. She is not just charismatic a-la Jacinda Ardern, but has the Leadership “X” Factor.

Contrast Ms Swarbrick to Labour’s Helen White. Ms White did herself no favours on TVNZ’s Q+A on 4 October, when she patronisingly demanded Ms Swarbrick to stand aside in Auckland so she wouldn’t split the Left vote (thereby allowing National’s Emma Mellow to win the electorate).

Bad form, Ms White. Entitlement is best left to National – they excel at the practice.

As to whether or not the Greens should (or could) become part of this government is largely academic. Labour’s majority means just that – it’s a majority.

But does Labour really want a Leftwing Opposition as well as two Rightwing oppositions?

If Ms Ardern is smart, she’ll pull the Greens into the Parliamentary “tent”. It’ll be much cosier. And the Greens can be valuable allies, especially when it comes to National’s appalling track record on the environment.

Labour

If there is one single masterful move National made during this election, it was to box L:abour into a corner by making Jacinda Ardern promise, with hand-on-heart: no new taxes. This will stymie the incoming government unless (a) the economy suddenly revives and the tax-take increases or (b) the government borrows more money.

Either way, this may prove to be the only “handbrake” to the incoming government – but a major one at that.

Otherwise, Labour has no other excuses anymore. It has the majority and it has the mandate.

Get on with it.

Because if the next three years are squandered by “playing it safe”, then the inevitable question will be asked by Team Five Million: what use are you?

The four top priorities for this government must be (in purely alphabetical order);

    1. Child poverty
    2. Climate change
    3. Housing
    4. Jobs

You kept Aotearoa safe these last eight months, Prime Minister Ardern. Now do those four.

New Conservatives and Advance NZ

Conspiracy fantasists have usually been little more than mildly amusing discussion topics at dinner parties. But with the advent of a global pandemic, their jaw-droppingly childish ideas about covid19 could affect all of us. Suddenly, they were not so amusing and we were not smiling.

Their ignorance was a potential threat to our well-being. Luckily, Prime Minister Ardern’s actions to contain and eradicate the virus in Aotearoa meant that the mass gatherings of New Conservatives and Advance NZ supporters would not turn into a super-spreader event – like this one;

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Trump super spreader

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We were lucky indeed.

Otherwise they would be the death of us.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

NZ First

New Zealand voters finally “got it”.

By voting for a political party that refused to disclose who they would coalesce with, in essence they were taking people’s votes and turning them into a “blank cheque”.

When NZ First coalesced with Labour in 2017, it annoyed those NZF supporters who leaned toward National.

When NZ First acted as a “handbrake” to Labour and Green initiatives, it annoyed those NZF supporters who leaned to the left.

Result? 2.7% on election night – down from 7.2% in 2017. That’s a lot of people who were annoyed for one reason or another.

The biggest loss with the demise of New Zealand First was Tracey Martin – one of NZ First’s best and most capable ministers. A suggestion to Prime Minister-elect Ardern – pull Ms Martin into the Labour Party fold. This woman has too much political talent to allow to go to waste.

As for Winston Peters – despite evidence obtained by RNZ’s Guyon Espiner that Winston Peters was “neck deep” in the secretive “NZ First Foundation” – Aotearoa owes much to this veteran politician.

Had he chosen a different path; had Mr Peters opted for a National-NZ First coalition (as many of his supporters expected), history would have been vastly different.

As pointed out above, National would have acquiesced to business calls to keep the economy open. It is doubtful if Simon Bridges would have closed our borders to tourism; or locked down for over a month; or re-locked Auckland in August.

It may not be to overly dramatic to suggest that, by choosing Labour, Winston Peters gave this country the right Leader at the right time, and saved lives.

As former NZ Listener editor, Finlay Macdonald said on Twitter;

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Findlay Twitter

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Former member of Parliament for NZ First and then National, Tau Henare, told this blogger he fully agreed with Mr Macdonald’s observation.

Winston Peters’ legacy? He gave us Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

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References

NZ Film Commission: The Quiet Earth

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand: The National Party – Leaders

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National’s fiscal hole appears to double to $8 billion as Paul Goldsmith denies double count mistake

TVNZ:  ‘That’s factually incorrect’ – Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins trade blows over child poverty

TVNZ: Recap – Collins, Ardern give final pitch to voters in TVNZ’s leaders’ debate

RNZ: National promises $4.7bn in tax cuts in economic and tax policy

Otago Daily Times: Watch – National promises ‘massive’ tax cuts

TVNZ: Q+A – National defends targeting middle-income earners with 16-month tax relief

Newshub:  Judith Collins defends National’s idea to spend COVID-19 fund, laughs at typo in Labour’s financial plan

Newshub: NZ Election 2020 – National wants to suspend new Super Fund contributions

Twitter: @nznationalparty – 8.09PM – Oct 15 2020

RNZ: National’s Gerry Brownlee admits he made a ‘huge mistake’ during electioneering

Stuff media: Woodhouse’s isolation homeless mystery man claim debunked

RNZ: National MP Hamish Walker admits leaking Covid-19 patient details

TVNZ: National MP says Judith Collins ‘bullied’ another MP in her party

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 8.01 PM – Oct 17, 2020

NZ Herald:  Judith Collins sets her own sacking point: 35 per cent in the polls

Stuff media: Election 2020 Results

Wikipedia: 2002 New Zealand general election

Newshub: Judith Collins opens up on internal polling, blames leaked email from Denise Lee for drop in numbers

Newsroom:  Collins clinging on after National’s heavy defeat

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 9.02 AM – Oct 18, 2020

TVNZ: Judith Collins says obesity is ‘generally’ a weakness, urges personal responsibility over blaming the ‘system’

NZ Herald: Helen Clark steps down after Labour’s loss in NZ election

Newshub:  Mark Mitchell distances himself from Judith Collins’ obesity comments, Gerry Brownlee says his weight is his responsibility

TVNZ: Q+A – Mark Mitchell – 18 October 2020

NZ Herald:  Todd Muller quits as National Party leader for health reasons

TVNZ: All businesses should be allowed to stay open if NZ moves to Level 4 – Auckland business leader

Stuff media: Election Results – Labour and Greens take two seats from National

TVNZ: Q+A – Helen White – Emma Mellow – Chlöe Swarbrick – 4 October 2020

The Atlantic:  The Virus Is Coming From Inside the White House

Wikipedia: 2017 General Election

RNZ: Exclusive – The secret case of the NZ First Foundation

Stuff media: NZ First voters preferred National to Labour at 2017 election by wide margin

Twitter: @MacFinlay – 9.33 PM – Oct 17, 2020

Additional

Gordon Campbell: On Why The Greens Shouldn’t Join The Government

Previous related blogposts

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

Life in Level 2: National’s Barely Secret Agenda

Life in Level 2: Two Tier Welfare; A Green School; Right Rage,

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election 2020 nz

Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost will be re-published in five days on “Frankly Speaking“. Reader’s comments may be left here (The Daily Blog) or there (Frankly Speaking).

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Political Caption Competition

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The mythical group of National voters who Party voted Labour to keep the Greens out.

The mythical group of National voters who Party voted Labour to keep the Greens out.

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The Daily Blog Open Mic – Wednesday – 21st October 2020

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Announce protest actions, general chit chat or give your opinion on issues we haven’t covered for the day.

Moderation rules are more lenient for this section, but try and play nicely.

EDITORS NOTE: – By the way, here’s a list of shit that will get your comment dumped. Sexist language, homophobic language, racist language, anti-muslim hate, transphobic language, Chemtrails, 9/11 truthers, climate deniers, anti-fluoride fanatics, anti-vaxxer lunatics, 5G conspiracy theories, the virus is a bioweapon, some weird bullshit about the UN taking over the world  and ANYONE that links to fucking infowar.

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COVID-19 outbreak on a live export ship – SAFE

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While New Zealand is gearing up to lift a temporary ban on live exports, 25 crew have tested positive for COVID-19 on the livestock carrier Al Messilah, which is docked at Fremantle Port in Western Australia.
The ship, which was due to be loading animals for export, has been delayed while authorities work to get infected crew off the ship and into hotel quarantine.
SAFE Campaign Manager Marianne Macdonald said live export poses too great a risk to New Zealand as the country struggles with containing COVID at its own ports.
“We have worked too hard to stamp out COVID-19 in our community to risk compromising that success by continuing with such a cruel trade,” said Macdonald.
“Live export accounts for less than one percent of our overall exports, at the expense of animals and the safety of Kiwis.”
Livestock exports were temporarily halted following the sinking of Gulf Livestock 1 and the 5,867 cows it was shipping to China. Last month Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced those rules would be relaxed on 24 October, this Saturday.
Just before the election, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern expressed her significant concerns with live export. Macdonald says Ardern should trust her instincts.
“Labour now has a strong mandate to take decisive action on crucial issues like live export.”
“Live export is a risk to animal welfare and our international reputation and ought to be banned before any more damage is done.”
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Election delivers high expectations for working people – E Tu

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E tū congratulates the Labour Party and the Green Party for their respective victories after the preliminary results of General Election 2020.

While the official count is yet to come, Labour have won enough votes to govern alone, and the Greens are back in with more MPs than last term.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says the result is great for workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The Labour and Green parties went into the election campaign with strong policies for workers.

“We congratulate both parties for this result, and in particular, would like to congratulate E tū leader Ibrahim Omer who has been elected as the first African MP to Parliament.”

Annie say the key policies for workers include Fair Pay Agreements, the Living Wage for workers employed by contractors in the state sector, and doubling the minimum sick leave entitlement.

“We calling for Labour’s workplace relations policies to be part of their commitments in the first 100 days.

“We expect them to move quickly on Fair Pay Agreements, which will transform the New Zealand workforce by providing industry standards for many of the country’s most vulnerable workers.”

E tū will continue to put pressure on the Government to deliver for workers and will hold them to account, Annie says.

“We have made more than 13,000 calls to E tū members and have engaged with parties and candidates throughout the campaign to ensure our issues are front and centre.

“We have high expectations for this Government. The election has given them one of the clearest mandates for progressive transformation in living memory.”

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A Righteous Crimson Tsunami! The Ultimate 2020 NZ Election Losers & Winners Guide

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After plague and pestilence,  the righteous crimson tsunami has swept all before it with the vengeance of low level socialism.

The meek have inherited the provinces and the grateful have sacrificed livestock.

Comets fill the sky, eclipses augur providence, virgin births and small scale miracles are yielded.

History has flinched and oracles have fainted.

It was a hell of an election and the greatest result politically for Labour in half a century.

The Mother of Dragons has prevailed with the most timid dragons ever seen.

Let’s get ready to grumble.

WINNERS

Chloe winning Auckland Central
Despite coming 3rd in both polls, she championed to victory because she is a unique candidate who can articulate real vision to the challenges we face. She must now replace Marama as co-leader of the Greens and she must be given the space to stamp her own leadership on the Party by refusing point blank to join Labour and immediately transition into an Opposition Party because 2023 will see the electorate demographics change to ones that support the Greens, not Labour and the spike in climate change events  alongside Labour’s cautious foot dragging will set the Greens in a position where they can double their current votes as the electorate gets more and more impatient with Jacinda’s neokindess. What’s the point of kindness if it can’t stop climate change and suffering? Chloe’s genuine transformative vision is the Jacinda we wish we had.  Chloe is a future leader of the UN.
Jacinda winning an unprecedented Labour victory
Her extraordinary emotional intelligence touched people at their most frightened and she reset leadership from male characteristics to unapologetically female ones without losing any power. Every woman who matters to me stands taller because of her example. She made kindness a political strength, not a weakness and she showed courage under crisis. This result was a gratitude win, her tepid domestic policy has to become something vastly more meaningful if the next 3 years aren’t to be squandered. She spent 3 years redefining ‘transformative’ to mean ‘whatever Winston will let me get away with’, we all hope she doesn’t bastardise the meaning of ‘mandate’ to ‘managing expectations’.  She is a political phenomenon and she is setting up a 4 term legacy.
Actual Green Party Caucus meeting
The Left save the Greens – again

A mere month ago, James Shaw was fretting the Greens would crash beneath the 5% threshold! The Green Party result doesn’t show support for the Greens, it shows Labour voters appalled at how timid Labour policy actually was! The Left, knowing that Labour were cruising to victory, put aside the Greens alienating woke middle class identity politics shtick and brought the Greens back from political oblivion because Labour supporters saw how tepid Labour’s policies really were. The politically active Left KNOW that Labour’s last 3 years have been mediocre at best. There’s only so many ‘Good first step’ press releases from Wellington Unions before you have to acknowledge you’re just jogging on the spot. The Left backed the Greens because the wider policy platform was far more radical than Labour’s. Does the current Leadership team have the tactical smarts to make the next strategic moves? Oh fuck no, totally expect them to goose this up. Nothing progresses until Chloe is the new co-leader.

 

John Tamihere and the Maori Party

Tamihere had a blinder of a campaign. He clearly won every debate he was in, including the multi-party debates. When mainstream Pakeha media are praising a Māori politician, you know he’s either done well or just called on the Treaty to be pruned. By bringing in 1 MP for the Māori Party, he has reset their political legacy and re-established his own. Expect him to cut a deal with Labour which excludes the Greens.

 

Neoliberalism
The Wellington Neoliberal Bureaucratic Elite stops transformative change in NZ, not Winston Peters, and they see nothing to fear in Jacinda or Labour. A Democracy changes the Government, A Revolution changes the State.

Evangelical Right
The Evangelical Right inside National have a new messiah in the form of Luxon and they await his leadership with the same impatience as they await the second coming.
Maori Media

Māori media this year provided a depth of coverage, a realness of debate and a genuine respect for all those participating that eclipsed any of the other mainstream media. Why is it when Facebook is spawning conspiracy theorists that Māori media who have provided the best journalism get bugger all money? Can’t Willie Jackson be the new Broadcasting Minister?

 

Labour Māori Caucus
Now the largest and most powerful faction inside Labour. The Deputy Leader shouldn’t be Kelvin after that dreadful speech, but the Deputy does have to be Māori.
Diversity
More Māori, Woman, Rainbow and Pacific MPs. Our Parliament looks like the actual people it represents. This is what a healthy functioning democracy look like and we should collectively feel pride and strength in that diversity.
Vegan Humble Pie
The one thing worse than eating humble pie, is eating vegan humble pie.
Simon Bridges – Vindicated
The ONLY National Party MP who comes out of National’s implosion with their mana intact and enhanced is Simon Bridges. The treachery and cowardice of his backbench who turned on him and sparked National’s death spiral with Muller’s coup showed their character under pressure where as Bridges has been all class. He would be mad to take the leadership back from such treacherous scum and they would be mad to not beg him.

LOSERS

TVNZ Election night coverage – A Spinoff Dinner Party from Hell
What the fuck happened to TVNZs election night coverage? Were they saving money or something? Simon Dallow barely appeared, they did a couple of crosses but most of it was one locked off shot of a panel that resembled a Spinoff dinner party where those deemed worthy to appear competed over who recycled best and who hated white men most. Mediaworks on the night was extraordinary. The panelists were heavy hitters, Gower was on another planet, the hosting was incisive, the crosses were hilarious – it was a political telethon on TV3 and Sunday morning worthy religious programming on TVNZ. MediaWorks owned TVNZ on election night.
OWNED.
Give me an O. Give me a W. Give me an N. Give me an E. Give me a D.
What do you get?
OWNED.
That was a lot of effort for one joke, but the level of effort was in recognition of aforementioned owning.
Pollsters – Bugger them
The pollsters were all wrong! Labour was soaring while National was crashing. The vast sum of advance votes meant the pollsters were fishing in an ever decreasing pool and it warped the results in ways that didn’t reflect anything other than the need to get a TV poll out.

Hooton – Machiavellian Prince who flew too close to the Sun 

What the fuck was he doing? He went sober and adopted this pious warrior philosopher poet schtick as his promise for personal development post all the Dirty Politics Machiavellian stuff, and he almost did it.

He had bewilderingly been allowed back into the media as a commentator no questions asked after Hager’s book and he went back to Uni for his philosophers stone and he dodged the defamation implosion at the NBR for the prized straddling of the NZ Herald + RNZ platforms.

His columns were infuriatingly incisive, destructive and declaring the end of Jacinda’s Government every month.

He had mana, he had fear and he had respect.

Then he pimped for Todd Muller in a coup fuelled on the false confidence of a tall man and the cowardice of backbench MPs and set National into a death spiral it couldn’t pull out of.

Was the bloodlust for one more power-roid chance to grasp at the precious too much for sober Gollum?

Is that what happened?

Because fuck that entire Muller fiasco was unbelievably destabilising.

What does Hooton do for an encore after that? Amputate his own leg with a can opener?

Kelvin Davis – Sit down, be humble
His poem was so embarrassing. Normally you can’t get Kelvin to talk, on election night you couldn’t shut him up. You don’t kick someone once you’ve knocked them down. If NZ beats some minnow at the Rugby World Cup, we show humility in that win and talk up our competitor, we don’t go take a creamy dump on their chest in the middle of the pitch over their exhausted bodies, which is exactly what Kelvin did for almost quarter of an hour. Take a great big creamy dump on the National Party when we should have been showing some grace. Why is he the Deputy?

 

Ben Thomas – sad pundit for the Right

As he got sadder and sadder with National imploding, Ben ‘Ratings Killer’ Thomas gloomed the Q+A studio down from a bright platform for the examination of the issues of the nation to a dark sad chamber of grief.

Flowers on set wilted. Can we get him an emotional support peacock please.

Helen White – Auckland Central Labour Candidate who imploded
What was it exactly that managed to make Helen White so awful as a candidate for Labour in Auckland Central? Was it the condescending attitude? The sense that she felt journalists and the dumb voters were beneath her? The Ok Karen snide put downs of Chloe? It was difficult to actually place wasn’t it? But it was totally there. She’s such a bad candidate. She cut a 15.7% lead down to a mere 5% in the space of 6 weeks! What a shambles.
Mainstream Media
How is it that we have radio and newspaper stations full of right wing opinion makers, yet every electorate in the South Island Party voted Labour? Those media platforms are completely out of whack with their actual audiences.
Boomers & Farming Lobby
The collapse of National is the end of a political dynasty and shows we as a country have finally hit the upper limit of boomer influence and farming political power. From here on in, National will decline as a political force and the Boomers and Farming Lobby don’t realise it yet.
Woke cancel culture activism against Free Speech
Just imagine, for one second, if the woke hadn’t started their deplatform anti-free speech jihad and hadn’t given David Seymour the gift of standing up for free speech. The fucking Left should be championing free speech, NOT THE FUCKING FAR RIGHT YOU FUCKING MORONS! The Woke handed ACT the ammunition they would use against us, they are now a Right Wing Values Party and we fucking gifted them free speech. Can the woke please go back to sleep?
The Fishing industry and racing industry – capitalism with no cronies
Without Winston’s crony capitalism, what will the corrupt fishing and racing industry do now?
The National Party

The National Party campaign was a train-wreck dumpster fire that collided with a school bus that exploded next to a pet store.

Simon Bridges fell foul of the sudden solidarity created by Covid and National were caught flat footed by a crisis that only became worse by more free market deregulation.

No one wanted to hear about the State being cut back when everyone was running to the State for safety.

It highlighted the utter vacancy of National Party ideology, all they kept coming up with was privatisation!

Their position on the border was farcical…

…and that’s after you had to accept a former President of the Party leaking privileged information to a National MP who then leaked it to the media, another MP sending sext texts, another Party Offical smearing their own candidate, and the Todd Muller coup ignited by cowardice.

I’ve seen mass cult suicides with better discipline than this. How the hell you expect people who feel deceived and betrayed to play happy families with those who betrayed and deceived you is beyond me.

New Conservatives – The Life of Leighton 

Turns out no one wants to burn books, make clits illegal  and drive Muslims into the sea. God has forsaken these clowns. Rejoice brothers and sisters! The New Conservatives with their platform of spite and malice only getting 1.5% proves there IS a God!

Beijing – Unhappy customer
They have just lost all that investment into National, they will NOT be happy.
There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief.
Alt-Right Qanon Conspiracy Theorists
It’s last days in the bunker time for Billy TK and JLR. Their conspiracy theory laden madness is upon them, the time of the 5G Apocalypse and rise of the Anti-Christ UN is here and it’s less Rapture as it is Rupture. The power of Facebook to project fear over reason and allow snake oil merchants like these two to manipulate people and warp the very structures of our Democracy really does need a jolly good looking into whenever Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi can find a minute to not be useless.
The climate, the poor, prisoners, the mentally ill & Renters
For them, they lose. The tepid nothingness of Labour Policy means their existence is pushed further and further to the edges.

CONCLUSION:

Ultimately, none of this really matters. In the words of the greatest living NZ Unionist, Robert Reid…

…THIS is the real issues in NZ.

We think the masquerade of representative democracy puts us the people in control – it doesn’t! The Wellington Neoliberal Bureaucratic Elite stops transformative change.

A Democracy changes the Government.
A Revolution changes the State.

We need a revolution from an election.

The foundations of the 35 year neoliberal experiment in NZ have been exposed and found to be cracked to their core, with the climate crisis demanding a radical change, this pandemic is the perfect time to challenge the religious orthodoxy of free market dogma.

This is a unique challenge for the NZ Left ever since Identity Politics over took class politics as the dominant theory on our side of the political divide. It means currently that the Left in NZ are intellectually better prepared to organise a WoC Mommy Blogger Trans Ally free the nipple petition on Action Station than they are to debate the hegemonic structure of neoliberalism.

This has left the Left intellectually ill prepared to debate the failures of the free market economy and the solutions we must adopt to get out of this.

Labour are notoriously timid when it comes to challenging the neoliberal hegemonic structure because they were the Party that unleashed this far right experiment upon us and the scars of that debate are still raw in Labour’s psyche, luckily for us the economic depression alongside the meltdown of the climate crisis will be so deep and damaging that even Cautious Jacinda and Extra Cautious Grant have no choice but to reform and rebuild.

History is watching.

Increasingly having independent opinion in a mainstream media environment which mostly echo one another has become more important than ever, so if you value having an independent voice going into this pandemic and 2020 election – please donate here.

If you can’t contribute but want to help, please always feel free to share our blogs on social media.

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Labour/Green relations: don’t weaken the independent Green voice

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Keith Locke - Legendary Former Green Party MP

There has been much discussion about how the Greens should position themselves now they are not needed by Labour to form a government.

The proposals range from no formal Labour/Green agreement to the Greens having Ministers in the Cabinet.

Having Cabinet Ministers has the obvious plus of Greens being able to initiate and guide progressive reform in their portfolio areas.  But it also has a big downside in that Green Ministers can only work within the limits of what the Labour Cabinet will allow, and Labour’s perspectives are, overall, a lot more constrained than those of the Greens.

Another downside of having Green Cabinet Ministers is that the party’s ability to criticise the policies of Labour Ministers is inevitably constrained, to one degree or another.  We saw this happening in the last term when the Greens gave away the opportunity to ask critical questions of Labour Ministers during Parliamentary Question Time.  Worse still, the Greens handed over their allocated Oral Questions to National.  This was shocking to me, and contrary to the Green practice, during the Clark government (1999-2008), of using Question Time to hold Labour Ministers  to account.  I was a Green MP during that time and every Question Time we were asking hard (and  often embarrassing) questions of Labour Ministers.  We didn’t hold back on our criticisms of Labour even when in 2005 two of our MPs (Jeanette Fitzsimons and Sue Bradford) were given government spokesperson roles in the  areas of Energy Efficiency and Buy Kiwi Made, respectively, as a result of a confidence and supply agreement with Labour.  Outside of those two policy areas we were able to challenge Labour  as much as we liked,  and put up alternative policies.  It should be noted that in 2005 Labour needed the Greens’ confidence and supply agreement as an insurance policy, because its government, which excluded the Greens, only had a one seat majority.

The Green Party (like the Values Party before it) represents a radical alternative to both Labour and National’s promotion of growth-oriented capitalism, which in recent times has taken on a neo-liberal form.   Labour, with a voting base among the less well-of, is more oriented to progressive reform than National, but it is reluctant to go too far, lest it upset the big end of town.  That was illustrated in the election campaign when Jacinda Ardern said she would resign before she would take on board the Green’s proposed wealth tax.  She even said it was off the table in any post-election negotiations.

Now that Labour doesn’t need the Green votes to govern, it will probably be even less accommodating to the Greens.  But there are still ways the two parties could work together, perhaps with a cooperation agreement. This could facilitate Green access to Labour Ministers, the spelling out of certain areas of joint work, cooperation in the House and Select Committees, the  promotion of private members bills, etc.

Of course, the Greens should support all the good Labour reforms, and try to push Labour to go further, helped along by the Green MPs  tapping into community campaigns, as they have always done.  But this also means working with the grassroots to oppose Labour when it is wrong.  Some of these issues are tough for us, because Labour, like National, is wedded to the US-led global capitalist order.  In this respect, for instance, the Greens should continue to campaign strongly  for New Zealand to be more independent and to withdraw from the Five Eyes military/intelligence alliance. The Greens should also be telling the public that dealing with the climate crisis requires radical change, well beyond the largely business-as-usual Labour approach.

We shouldn’t fall into a trap of thinking that the Greens can always do more from the inside, with a Cabinet post, than from the outside, helping to lead a popular campaign.  Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t.  I’m thinking, for example, of new Green MP Ricardo Menendez March,  fresh from leading the Auckland Action Against Poverty activist group.  He would probably get more change by linking as a Green MP with various welfare lobby groups, and using Parliament as a platform, than he would as Social Development Minister starved for cash by the Finance Minister, as has been the case with the current Social Development Minister, Carmel Sepuloni.

Getting enough money would be a problem for any Green Minister.  While the Labour government has been splashing the cash to deal with the economic impact of Covid-19, it will still be operating within neo-liberal austerity orthodoxy for most departmental spending.

That is one of the reasons why, in the current circumstances, the Green caucus should not do any deal with Labour that limits its MPs’ ability to criticise Labour and promote the Green alternative. That probably means foregoing the opportunity to have a Green Minister or Ministers.

We should celebrate the Greens election result.   And one conclusion we can draw from Chloe Swarbrick’s victory  in Auckland Central is that it is possible, in the right circumstances, to prevail over both Labour and National.  The Greens are not an “ad-on” party for Labour.  I’m worried that  pushing for Ministerial positions, when the Greens haven’t got any leverage with Labour, makes the Greens look like an “ad-on” party, and a bit desperate.

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Duncan Garner will be vegan for a year – Media Release from The Vegan Society Aotearoa New Zealand

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The AM Show’s Duncan Garner said in July that if Labour won the election, he would go vegan. The Vegan Society is delighted to see a Labour government and we feel confident that after a year of being vegan, reaping the health benefits such as having more energy and losing a few kilos, Duncan may decide that he likes the new version of himself. He certainly would not be the first person to say “I’ll never go vegan” and then some time later be saying “I wish I had gone vegan sooner”

Garner will also be on track to reducing his risk of cardiovascular disease, developing type 2 diabetes and many cancers, particularly bowel cancer. Of course these benefits are seen best on a wholefood diet but that does not mean that he has to stop eating pies. A quick trip to your local supermarket will show you there is a lot of vegan junk food to be tasted. Some vegan alternatives may seem pricey but there are certainly bargains to be had. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are still cheap as ever, whilst the price of meat and dairy has been slowly increasing.

We understand that it can seem like a hard thing to do if you are not used to the idea of eating plant-based. That’s why we have our 21 day easy vegan challenge to help people like Duncan get started on their journey towards health. It seems that Grant Robertson will also be joining Garner for his vegan challenge and we cannot think of a better day to start than World Vegan Day, on the 1stNovember.

We are here to offer our support to all who are interested in veganism and especially welcome both Duncan and Grant to a new world of taste sensations,” media spokesperson Claire Insley said. “It’s really encouraging that diehard omnivores such as Garner and Robertson are willing to give it a go. I know it was said with the belief that they would not have to do it, but all that really matters for the animals and our planet is that more people reduce their meat and dairy intake, ideally to zero, We have no more time to waste.”

Our business members will be only too pleased to help both men find really tasty products that they can sink their teeth into, offers of help from vegan businesses have come flooding in. The number of vegan eateries in New Zealand has exploded in the last few years and Garner and Robertson will be pleasantly surprised how much of their favourite foods they can still eat. Eating vegan is so much easier now than it was even 5 years ago, with pies, pizza, ice cream, cakes, sausages, burgers and more to choose from, these guys are going to be spoiled for choice!

Try the 21 day easy vegan challenge for yourself and see if you can keep up with Garner and Robertson as they step into a new way of eating. It’s good for you, good for the planet and most certainly good for the animals. Check out www,tryvegan.org.nz for more details on the challenge and sign up for recipes, advice, tips and tricks on all things vegan.

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Time to act is now

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The previous Labour Government took Capital Gains Tax (CGT)off the table after the Tax Working Group report, and then in the election promised not to introduce a Net Wealth Tax. While there is not a lot of wriggle room alternatives must be discussed urgently if the COVID recovery is to have any hope for a fairer, flourishing future.

Economists are warning that Inequality and housing affordability are only going to get worse as interest rates drop further. Let’s hope that this new government to not be like stunned possums standing in the glare of impending chaos.  

Both CGT and Net Wealth Tax propositions were comprehensive, utopian and, sadly, flawed. An annual CGT doesn’t work in practice. It is game over once it is conceded that only the gains realised on sale can be counted for most assets, and that the family home will be excluded.  Mercifully, we were spared agonising months of debate over how assets are to be valued at what start date, who values them, what costs can be deducted, how the family home is treated when it is partially used for business or rental, what exemptions apply, what roll over provisions apply, how inflation and capital losses will be treated, and what tax rate applies, to list but few of the complexities.

The short-term gains under the five years bright-line test is a backstop that needs to be strengthened, extended and properly policed to catch short-term speculation, but a comprehensive CGT is now a pipe dream.

The net wealth tax was doomed as well. Its comprehensive nature to make it fairer made it more complex. It had no sound narrative underpinning it and was easily ridiculed and exaggerated by the Opposition as attacking ‘hard earned’ success.  If wealth is amassed from savings out of tax paid income, then a wealth tax looks like a double tax. It certainly managed to scare the horses. 

It is time to drop both comprehensive approaches and ask ‘what is the real problem that needs an urgent solution’? New Zealand is not alone seeing low interest rates fuel a housing bubble but the bubble in New Zealand astrides the developed world (see The Economist house price index) and its possible implosion is a grave danger to any fledgling COVID recovery.   

Housing unaffordability is at the heart of poverty and the expansion of inequality. A shortage of affordable housing options underpins and reinforces poor outcomes while the wealthy accumulate ever more housing advantage. Market-based reforms in the 1991 “mother of all budgets” set New Zealand on the path of high and persistent levels of after-housing-costs poverty and divisive inequality. Today many families subsist in precarious labour markets or on impossibly low social welfare benefits and face impaired life outcomes with long-term mental and physical health issues. Much more redistribution is needed.

Policies are needed to extract more tax from the undertaxed owners of expensive real estate and residential land, both to restrain price rises and to provide a secure revenue stream. But the government has ruled out introducing any new tax. 

One fruitful approach is to revive the narrative of comprehensive income tax. Using our existing tax system we can expand the base of what is captured under an income tax. The persuasive narrative is that income earned from holding assets in whatever form should be treated the same.

Just as we do for the taxation of foreign shares- where they are assumed to earn a 5% fixed rate of return and tax is paid on that, so we could have a tax on the potential income from holding net equity on housing rather than in the bank. Anyone investing in Australia shares/equites understands the mechanism.

Currently someone who has a $100,000 of net equity in housing is treated differently to someone who has $100,000 in a term deposit at the bank. The effect is to make investment in housing very attractive. The $100,000 in the bank will earn an annual interest of say 2%. This will be taxed at the marginal tax rate of the holder of the deposit. Likewise, each person’s total equity in housing and residential land after deducting registered mortgages, could be aggregated and treated as if it were earning interest in the bank.  A gross interest of $2000 would generate a tax of between $210 and $666 (or $780 under Labour’s new top rate of 39%.

A wealth tax of 1% on $100,000 of net equity in housing is $1000 regardless of one’s marginal tax rate. Compared to a net wealth tax, treating net equity as earning at least a bank rate of return would be much more progressive.  

A personal exemption of, say, $1 million would mean that most home-owners would be unaffected. Unless they have been the beneficiaries of inheritance, younger owners of high-priced homes are likely to have mortgages that reduce their net equity to below the exemption ($2 million for a couple). Older low income people with valuable mortgage-free housing may have significant net equity after the exemption but would pay tax at a low rate: if there is a liquidity problem it can be dealt with using postponement of the debt until sale. 

Such a net equity approach has an inherent logic – investment in property should return at least as much as having the same money in the bank.  It is fair that taxes are paid on the income for both. 

Compared to intractable CGT problems, objections to expand the income tax net this way, such as landlords will “just load up their properties with debt”, or “put their houses in a family trust” or “can’t pay if there is no cashflow” are easily dealt with. Valuation is simple: the rateable values are readily available and regularly updated. No daunting valuation day is needed and over time, if house values increase for whatever reason, the rateable value will increase and with it, the tax base of net equity. 

The housing stock would be better used than currently, and the overuse of scarce resources to build larger and more elaborate homes discouraged. Property would stop looking like a sure-fire way to investment riches. Empty houses currently held for capital gains might actually be rented. Houses might be fixed up to keep good tenants. Accountants’ fees to manipulate the profits and loss of renting along with negative gearing would disappear. Good landlords may find in fact, they are rewarded with a simpler system and higher returns than before, meaning there is no justification for rent rises.

The Government must be ready to act decisively and confidently in the first months of the first year of its second term, otherwise the chaos will continue.

 

Susan St John is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Auckland Business School and Director of the Retirement Policy and Research Centre.

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Governing for All of Us.

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WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS when half the country has just voted for you? How should you respond to such a resounding vote of confidence? Jacinda Ardern has undoubtedly been giving this question considerable thought for several weeks. I say “weeks” because her party’s pollsters and their focus-group moderators have been making it clear to her for months that a Labour win of historic proportions was on the cards. From the tone and content of her gracious Saturday night victory speech, it soon became clear that, from the options on offer, Jacinda had already made her choice. She would lead a government “for all New Zealanders”.

It’s a promise that works as well for those on the bottom of the socio-economic heap as it does for those at the top. Indeed, it will be interpreted by both groups as applying particularly to themselves. For beneficiaries, the unemployed, and the working poor struggling to pay the rent; Jacinda’s words will be taken to mean that their needs will not be forgotten. For the rich and the very-rich, the Prime Minister’s speech will have brought reassurance that their wealth was safe. For the rest of us, it just sounded right: what sort of Prime Minister would set out to govern only for her supporters?

Part of the reason for Labour’s landslide win on Saturday, is how easy the National Party leader, Judith Collins, and her colleagues, made it to answer that question. Throughout the campaign, it was made abundantly clear that National’s policies were intended to advantage its friends, allies and supporters – and virtually no one else. Time and again, when questioned about the huge disparity between the tax relief being offered to those in full-time employment on generous salaries, and those working two or three minimum-wage jobs, National’s finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, talked of hard-working Kiwis on the average wage – as if everyone else were shiftless wastrels who deserved nothing better.

It’s precisely this dog-eat-dog attitude that New Zealand turned its face from in this election. If Covid taught New Zealanders just one thing, it’s that selfishness is a potentially deadly affliction. We learned how dangerous those who insist that “protecting the economy” be accorded the highest priority – ahead of the lives of elderly and vulnerable New Zealanders – truly are. We also learned the virtues of collectivism: rediscovering the simple truth that the well-being of each of us, and the well-being of all of us, are goals that can only be achieved by working together. It was her steadfastness in advancing this simple proposition that made Jacinda unbeatable.

That is not a rhetorical flourish. From the moment New Zealand went into Level 4 – Lockdown – National found itself shut out of the election conversation. Individuals close to the party report campaign operatives telling them that the phone was well-and-truly off-the-hook. Focus-group moderators quizzed their subjects relentlessly, desperate to find the words and phrases that would trigger former National voters into returning the party’s calls. But, it was no good, nobody wanted to talk to politicians who thought it was a good idea to criticise, nit-pick, or in any other way undermine the nation’s determination to “stamp out the virus”.

National’s desperation was etched for all to see on the increasingly distraught features of Judith Collins. It was reinforced by her frenetic visits to the party’s rural and provincial seats.  It was as if any thought of reaching out beyond National’s electoral base no longer made the slightest sense. It had become, in the metaphor so beloved by political journalists, a simple matter of “saving the furniture”.

Except, it didn’t work. In every South Island electorate the Party Vote was won by Labour. Rangitata fell. East Coast fell. Wairarapa fell. New Plymouth and Wanganui fell. Unbelievably, Ilam – Gerry Brownlee’s leafy Christchurch redoubt, the bluest of National’s blue-ribbon seats – fell. The furniture was burning.

Labour has ceased to frighten National voters. The class enemy turns out to have a kind heart, a toothy smile, and a special knack with ginger-cake. Their own leader, sadly, looks more and more like a fruitcake.

Mickey Savage had performed the same trick back in the 1930s. My father liked to tell a story from his childhood about the old dairy farmer he often helped-out after school. The 1938 general election was fast approaching, and politics was on everybody’s lips. One evening, the hard-scrabble cow-cocky, perhaps aware that Dad’s father, the local GP, was a firm ally of the Labour Government, observed: “Well, Tony, it looks as though we’re going to have the socialists again!” As my father told the tale, the farmer did not say this with bitterness, but with a wink and a smile. A few days later, Labour romped back to power with 55.8 percent of the popular vote.

There are those on the Left who fear that Jacinda’s attachment to the centre will prevent her from doing what so urgently needs to be done in housing, welfare, child poverty, industrial relations and climate change. They argue that the only people she and her government will respond to are the owners of businesses large and small. My own feeling is, that Jacinda will do as much as we compel her to do. As much as – now that she need ask no other party’s permission – the mood of the electorate suggests she can get away with. And, given how incredibly skilled she has become at creating a mood, that could be quite a lot.

When confronted by urgent and indisputable need, Jacinda and Grant Robertson were willing to spend scores of billions of Reserve Bank-created dollars to keep the lights on. The Prime Minister is not afraid of breaking the rules of neoliberalism if that is what the situation clearly requires – and what the voters are urging her to do in numbers too great to be ignored. Far too many on the Left are unwilling to acknowledge that the only kind of socialism that endures is democratic-socialism. Or as Jacinda puts it: “Change that sticks.”

We must not be frightened of the Prime Minister’s pledge to govern for all New Zealanders. It is not a formula for centrist betrayal. It is just another way of saying that she will continue to look after “The Team of Five Million”? And hasn’t Jacinda already shown us how well she can do that?

Isn’t that why she won?

 

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Waatea News Column: Brown Wave joins a Labour Red Wave to reshape NZ political landscape

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I started 2020 arguing that Māori would be a decisive voting block in this election, but not even I could have hoped for the kind of result we ended with.

Labour Māori voters not only returned 6 of the 7 electorates to Labour, they poured huge numbers into the Labour Party vote in those electorates as well.

Māori voters are the icing on Jacinda’s cake that allows her to rule with an outright majority so Labour MUST listen to those Māori political aspirations.

What else does Willie Jackson who ran the Māori campaign for Labour have to do to get a promotion to Deputy Leader?

The Māori Caucus inside Labour are now the largest and most powerful faction but it wasn’t just a Brown Wave helping rise the Red Wave, there was a clear message sent by Māoridom with the phenomenal success of the Māori Party that an independent political voice for Māori is essential to get those changes in place.

There have been a host of issues where Labour have let down Māori in favour of State organizations, Oranga Tamarki, the censoring of the Māori voice in the mental health review and the refusal of a Māori Health Agency all highlighted that despite Labour in power, the interests of the Ministries still trumps the aspiration of Māori.

The simple truth is that with this win, there are no more excuses for Māori aspiration to be held back.

It’s time to deliver.

First published on Waatea News.

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The government’s handbrake

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Like many people I have frequently wondered what it is that drives Jacinda Ardern. She entered parliament here through the Labour Party after working for the UK government led by notorious war criminal Tony Blair.

She rose to lead Labour in 2017 without ever campaigning on anything. On her way up her name was not associated with any particular issue as it is with almost any other three-term member of parliament anyone could name.

She reached the top without touching the sides.

She has said she came into politics because of child poverty but even here there is no sign of significant policy change, despite three years in the top job. As Judith Collins has rightly pointed out, in perhaps the most important measure of child poverty – children living in severe material hardship – the numbers have become worse under Ardern. And her goal to halve child poverty in 10 years is simply embarrassing.

I suspect the answer to the puzzle from my first line is that Jacinda Ardern wants to be popular. That may seem harsh and I’m sure it’s not the full picture but it’s the dominant feature of her political ambition. She wants to leave a legacy of populism, like John Key, rather than a political legacy of transformation.

If seeking popularity was her style as a way to drive desperately-needed reform that would be fine but there is no sign of that.

She says she wants to “build consensus” and “lead the country for all New Zealanders” but I suspect these are excuses to avoid adopting transformational policies which would be unpopular, particularly with the rich and powerful. Her refusal to say which side of the cannabis issue she was voting on is a case in point. More importantly, her refusal to consider a capital gains tax or wealth tax has tied her government’s hands and neutered any possibility for transformation. In this context “leading the country for all New Zealanders” means maintaining the status quo for the 1%.

I think the focus for this government will be on social/cultural changes which will be popular with Labour’s middle-class activists – just as Labour in the 1980s kept its activists happy with issues such as homosexual law reform and anti-nuclear policy while it decimated working class communities and drove tens of thousands into poverty.

The ”T” word will not be a happening thing in this government because the biggest handbrake on transformation is the Prime Minister herself.

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GUEST BLOG: Lois Griffiths – I Can’t Breath

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The poor man. George Floyd brutally assaulted by an American policeman, earlier this year. This shocking story galvanised the world to protest  the brutality of militarized American police especially against African-Americans. Let’s hope it caused white Americans to realise that their own society needed transforming.

 

 Just a minute!! THAT’S NOT  George Floyd ! 

Those are Israeli police and the elderly man in the photograph,  is Khairi Hanoun, a Palestinian farmer. Walking with a cane, carring a Palestinian flag,  he was protesting the further expansion  of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Oh well. That’s what happens over there. We expect the Israelis to be violent. They always have been. After all, “Israel has to defend itself’, a mantra we’ve been hearing for decades: defend itself from Palestinian farmers, fishermen, men, women and children, from grandmothers, little brothers and baby sisters.  

But why are American police these days so militarized: wearing military combat uniform, using tear gas, physically assaulting people? 

 Something happened after 9/11. It was decided that the whole kaupapa for  law enforcing  needed to be transformed from community policing to militarized policing.

Not that police weren’t already heavy-handed in their dealing with the public,  especially   African-Americans . 

Police departments needed to be trained to regard the public as the enemy, an  enemy to be handled violently.

American officials were faced with a problem: how to indoctrinate police departments to accept, and even approve, of  this new direction.

 

Go to the experts! 

Israel has a thriving industry, exporting its tried and proven techniques of subjugation. 

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an American human rights NGO has published a carefully researched eye-opening, document, Deadly Exchange, explaining how American enforcement officials are trained by Israelis. Please visit their website. You can download the document for free. It’s an important insight  into trying to understand what America is like today.

Visit jewishvoiceforpeace.org to download Deadly Exchange 

I assume New Zealand police aren’t trained by the  Israelis. Let’s hope not. 

 

Lois Griffiths is a Human Rights Activist 

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GUEST BLOG: Dave Brownz – DEGROWTH AND THE THEATRE OF THE ABSURD

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Last night I dreamed I had a nightmare. It was a Punch and Judy show on TVNZ. In one corner was Punch in the other Judy, except it was Judy who was punching Jacinda. Out the back pulling the strings was QAnon, recently outed as a Wall Street banker. Judy wore the death mask of a dying world pumping gas into the atmosphere. Jacinda, was dolled up as a marionette entertaining the mob, throwing kisses and licking her bruises. Out the front was the lolling crowd, lapping up the theatre of the absurd a day out from the next circus visiting town. It all seemed too much and I woke up.

On the early show on RNZ a Raglan teacher who had not voted once in his 41 years was allowing his 13-15 old students to use his vote. Most voted Labour followed by the Greens. No mention of Covid conspiracies, or marvel comic characters. Even the born-again Maori Party failed to show up.

I jumped out of bed and headed for the computer brain cells on fire. Staggering slightly as cannabidiol was still knocking me out. As I fell on the keyboard my head spinning, I imagined what Karl Marx would have thought of all this. He was a fan of Goethe and Shakespeare and late nights at the pub, but would he understand the Theatre of the Absurd.

Of course he would. Capitalism is an absurdity. Behind the proscenium arch lie the secrets of growth and degrowth. Capitalism is a parasite that can change color. A virus that attacks every organ and leaves you wasted. Healthy humans are rational, material beings. We know we have to work to live. We produce value out of our labour and consume only what we need. We do not hunt and gather for trophies but for food and shelter. In fact we conserve our labour energy by using tools to increase its productivity.

But the capitalist measures value by labour time and he makes sure we work longer than we need to live. Our wage is just enough to allow us to live to work long enough to create surplus value or profits. Energy flows into reworking nature not just to reproduce our labour but to create the profits of the employers. Now that is absurd because it blows back.

So, growth is essentially our reproduction as a species living in harmony with nature or else nature blows back and destroys us. That synergy with nature determines growth. Along comes capitalism and diverts the metabolism of the energy flow into the pockets of parasites, the landgrabbers who become Messrs. Moneybags or in today’s parlance Mr QAnon.

Growth is now measured by the amount of surplus labour extracted from natures bounty into the belly of the monster. This creates an edifice of wealth stolen from nature, a deficit which ultimately bites back as degrowth. So capitalist growth leads to compulsory degrowth?

This degrowth is called a crisis. Crises are breakdowns in production of value. Profits fall and investment in production ceases. A crisis is anything that stops production – recessions, depressions, pandemics, wars, and now the king hit – climate crash.  Clearly capitalism by its nature is a theatre of absurdity as the destruction of nature is the price of making a buck.

Judy’s ghostly death mask is a portent of the collapse of capitalist ‘civilisation’. Jacinda’s dangling dance is humanity in denial of its finitude and living in la la land. Growth as capitalist growth is impossible without total destruction. In fact, growth is the name of destruction. GDP is a fiction. It measures the price of everything but the value of nothing.

What are $20,000 dollar Covid flights to the Northern Territory; the shipping of poison gas to Bashar Assad; the Rocket Lab shooting up into the atmosphere the technology of space wars; the burning of the real Amazon so that the other Amazon can drone its high tech monopoly into our minds; what is Domestic violence that creates paid employment for cops, lawyers and university professors, but the Grotesque Destructive Parody of the production of useful value?

We need to destroy the Theatre of the Absurd and create the Theatre of the Real. We need degrowth not by means of depression, pandemic and wars, but by eliminating the extraction of surplus value that destroys nature and ourselves.

Maybe the kids at Raglan Area school, kids everywhere, fluent in Maori, empathy and justice, can arouse the woke sleepwalkers of the Theater of the Absurd, expose the real workings of the puppet masters, and replace them with the Theatre of the Real.  Humans working to live within the bounds of nature, saving millions of species including our own from extinction.

I want to dream about that.

 

DAVE BROWNZ IS TDBs GUEST MARXIST BLOGGER

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