There was a time when John Key used to promise solutions to any problem you could name. Or he would act sympathetic and concerned by the consequences of his government’s own policies. But the broken promises and falseness wore thin. Key’s new tactic is simply to pretend that problems don’t exist. Apparently, that’s called leadership in National Party circles.
Key’s been pulling this crap for a while but it has only just become his default position. It really stood out the day before the Budget when David Shearer took him to task on his broken economic promises:
David Shearer: How can he have confidence in his Minister of Finance, when he predicted in Budget 2011 that economic growth would reach 4 percent, and it actually reached only 1.1 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot be absolutely sure about the veracity of that statement
– Now, I don’t buy Key’s dumb act. He’s the numbers man. He knows that growth was projected to hit 4% this year. He knows it was actually 1.1%. But it’s easier to pretend there’s no issue.
It was much, much worse yesterday though. Practically every answer was a glib denial that the issue in question even exists.
David Shearer: Is he aware that increasing ratios for years 2 to 3 means that some schools may have to cut Reading Recovery programmes for 6 and 7-year-olds?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not accept that proposition at all.
David Shearer: When he said this morning that he would prefer his child in a class of 16 with a quality teacher, rather than 15, was he aware that the median class size in State schools is in fact 28?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The important point here is that schools are funded off a ratio, and the funding ratio for a year 1 class is 15.
– Notice how he won’t deal with the actual facts: schools are funded on ratios but money has to be diverted from them for special teaching like reading recovery. That means class sizes are already well above the ratios and they will either have to get worse or special teaching – which produces extra value by addressing needs that would otherwise severely inhibit learning – will have to be cut.
Key’s answers to Russel Norman’s question (which Grant Robertson and David Parker chipped in on) was rife with willful blindness from Key:
Dr Russel Norman: How does his Government’s decision to discourage people from becoming teachers by requiring them to get postgraduate qualifications while simultaneously removing student allowances for postgraduate study help to build a more productive economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I reject the proposition from the member.
– right, so requiring teachers to get post-graduate qualifications while making studying post-grad less affordable isn’t a huge mixed signal? Uh huh.
… Grant Robertson: Given that last answer from the Prime Minister, can he tell the House what the difference is between the maximum amount that a student can borrow for living costs under the student loan each week, and the actual student allowance that people can get—what is the difference between those two amounts?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised that it is very similar.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a document from StudyLink that outlines the various rates that can be obtained from a student loan weekly …It says that the maximum amount of money that a student can borrow per week for living costs from the student loan scheme is $171.50, and that the maximum amount that they can get from student allowances is over $350 a week.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document…. Is there any objection? There is objection. [from Key]
– oh dear, did Key really think that the allowance and borrowing for living costs are comparable, or was it just easier for him to pretend there was no issue?
… Dr Russel Norman: Given that 2,700 teachers emigrated from New Zealand last year, how does driving away ambitious educators help build a more productive economy, or was the more productive economy he promised to build actually the Australian economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot confirm that 2,700 teachers emigrated; they may or may not have.
– A simple check of the Stats website shows 2693 education professionals left New Zealand in the past year. Now, that’s 5% of people leaving despite teachers making up only 2.5% of the workforce. Nothing to worry about, or even acknowledge, in Key’s world.
… Hon David Parker: Why did he say 2 days before the Budget that “under a National Government, exports are rising.” and in his Budget speech last Thursday that “We have got the export sector starting to grow.” when Statistics New Zealand earlier that day reported a 17 percent—$800 million—drop in goods exported from New Zealand in the year to April 2012?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because the member is quoting a 1-month number, and I am looking over a 3 or 4-year period.
Hon David Parker: How can he pretend our export story is a good one when imports are projected to increase at twice the rate of exports, and before he blames Christchurch, is he aware that of the 6.8 percent current account deficit projected for 2016, Treasury has advised that only 1 percent relates to Christchurch?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised that it is Christchurch that is a major part of it.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with commentator Fran O’Sullivan in the New Zealand Herald that the major problem is that there is no clear economic growth agenda?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
– yup. National has been talking up exports because they were the one economic indicator that was looking good. Now they’re not, Key pulls a Fat Tony (‘what’s an export?’).
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly retain confidence in the Minister for Whānau Ora when, during these economic times, she gave $60,000 to a rugby and sports club to “undertake whānau development research to develop a range of outcomes, which include resilience, whānau connectedness, and community role models and leadership”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot comment on an individual case
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly, as Prime Minister, retain confidence in the Minister for Whānau Ora when she is granting sums like $60,000 to an established sports club when there are poor Māori children in the far north scrounging for food in pig scrap heaps and buckets as reported in the New Zealand Herald on 12 May this year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have individual information on the particular programme the member is talking about. He will have to take that up with the Minister directly. In terms of the claims in the New Zealand Herald, I have no reasonable way of ensuring that that is accurate or not.
– so kids are starving and Key’s answer is ‘la la la, I can’t hear you and I won’t see you’. Oh, and attacking the Herald at the same time. Jesus Christ. A leader solves problems, he doesn’t pretend that they don’t exist.
Is this really going to be how Key sees out his last two and a half years? With his hands over his eyes?