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A chance to make his mark

Written By: - Date published: 3:16 pm, November 19th, 2008 - 54 comments
Categories: International, john key - Tags:

John Key’s off on his first trip as PM tomorrow – APEC in Peru. When I saw him interviewed about this he seemed to think it would be ‘a good chance to meet other world leaders’ which, as former member of the dip corp, made me groan. You’re not a world leader just because you won an election in some wee country, John, you have to prove your worth on the international stage, as Clark did. More importantly, APEC is not just about meeting people  – it’s not a gentleman’s club, it’s not an opportunity to get some names in your autograph book – it’s about serious business.

The world is facing a triple crunch – credit, food, and oil. They’re all inter-related and global. Dealing with them effectively requires global reform of our economies. Part of this is a major re-work of the finance sector. IT is these issues that leaders will be discussing at APEC.

Now, John Key’s the ‘money-man with a heart’, it would be nice to think that he could offer some ideas to contribute to the solution. Perhaps he could take a leaf from the New Economics Foundation’s ‘From the ashes of the crash‘, which lays out 20 first step reforms, many of them concerning the organisation of the finance markets, to get us past the ‘triple crunch’ and create a Green New Deal. As a finance insider, Key could suggest how the industry needs to be reformed to prevent greedy, unaccountable gamblers putting us all at risk in return for a quick buck. You never know, his counterparts might even listen.

If he were to go to APEC and do that, actually make a difference rather than just notch up ‘pull asides’ and ‘one-on-ones’, it would really be something. He could then, deservedly, call himself a world leader.

54 comments on “A chance to make his mark ”

  1. Ianmac 1

    I would have hoped that a Leader would be able to inspire his “people” (us) with a credible well structured plan for recovery, before APEC. But although John has been PM for only a few hours he must have had a year or two to have ideas, and plans. I would hope the plans are NZ centred?

  2. Carol 2

    Steve that “From the ashes of the crash” link, brings up a firefox window, starts to download a file, then freezes the browser.

    I was interested in reading about the Green New Deal.

    Did Key have anything to say about how he would be working to further NZ and/or the region’s interests at APEC?

  3. Tim Ellis 3

    SP, when you say you were previously a member of the diplomatic corps, do you mean you worked for a foreign embassy in some case (in which case you weren’t a member of the diplomatic corps, since this is reserved for people who are accredited diplomats), or did you work for MFAT in some capacity?

    [the dip corps is not just the accredited diplomats, who are foreign diplomats in NZ, a number of missions also employ New Zealanders who undertake the normal activities of diplomats – they’re not diplomats of course but they are part of the dip corps, the representatives of foreign governments engaged in diplomatic activity in NZ. Feel free to disagree with that if you like but I’m probably more qualified to make the definition. I have also worked for MFAT, as it happens, but not in that kind of role. SP]

  4. Felix 4

    Fascinating, Tim. Any interest in the post?

  5. Tane 5

    Tim, you haven’t been talking to the National Party Research Unit have you? I understand they’ve been digging through Steve’s background, so I’m just curious.

  6. Kerry 6

    I bet john boy will get a signed photo of George W to hang behind his desk in the Beehive……he can stare at the photo when hes feeling bored and think…..”what would George do”.

    What is the National Party Research Unit??? Paul Henry????

  7. higherstandard 7


    Don’t these people have anything better to do ?

  8. Tim Ellis 8

    Not at all, Tane, I wouldn’t be able to name anybody down there let alone talk to them. But if somebody makes a statement about some qualification or expertise they have, by saying things like how they were a member of the diplomatic corps, then that is a verifiable fact. If SP did work for a foreign embassy for a few months doing a bit of research work for them, then that’s all well and good, but strictly speaking that doesn’t mean he was an accredited diplomat, which is what it means to be a member of the diplomatic corps. It’s like me saying I was a member of the medical profession when I worked as a hospital cleaner one summer as a student. If SP was employed by MFAT as a foreign policy recruit and spent time at an overseas post, then that’s fine, too.

    I don’t think there’s anything sinister in SP’s claim, but unless he has been an accredited diplomat it’s misleading to say he was a member of the diplomatic corps, and he should stop making the claim as some kind of expertise in foreign policy matters.

  9. Tane 9

    Tim, no worries, just checking. It’s just that exact same claim has come up before, turned out they hadn’t checked his CV properly.

  10. Felix 10

    I’ll take that as a no then…

  11. Tim Ellis 11

    Felix, in answer to your question I don’t agree with SP’s core premise that the world is facing a triple crunch of food, oil, and credit. Certainly there is a credit squeeze, but oil prices have tumbled as a result of considerably lower economic growth forecasts. Likewise commodity prices generally, including food prices.

    The evidence suggests that some of the food price squeezes were not because of lower food production, but because of substitute production of bio-fuels, which certainly massively increased the cost of grain and rice internationally, but food commodity prices are all down between 25-40% on their peaks in March-April.

    As for the credit crunch, I don’t have any expertise in international finance, but some of the proposals in the document that SP linked to appear not dissimilar to some of the crank, funny money, social credit calls that raise their heads fairly regularly.

  12. randal 12

    I dont give a stuff about peru
    is that where all the nuts come from or is that where all the nuts go
    so keys is going to flit off without doing anything about this plague of boy racers that has erupted since natoinal took power
    what a shyster!

  13. Felix 13

    In case you haven’t been paying attention, the “crank funny money” system of international finance has failed us on a massive scale.

    Perhaps it’s time to stop pretending that our system of finance was handed down by god and seriously consider fixing some of the inherent flaws in that system.

  14. Tim Ellis 14

    Felix, I don’t view the sub-prime crisis to be caused by market failure. It was clearly caused by greed that emerged from failed market intervention.

  15. Felix 15

    But greed is good Tim. It’s crucial to the functioning of our man-made financial system.

  16. keith 16

    “Felix, I don’t view the sub-prime crisis to be caused by market failure. It was clearly caused by greed that emerged from failed market intervention.”


  17. randal 17

    he better come back with some good deals

  18. rave 18

    Would Key take a leaf from “the Ashes…” Hardly.

    The New Economic Foundation reminds me of Proudhon and Te Whiti.
    If you blame the ills of the market on money then you need to reform money by nationalising (neutralising) it. This would be the point of a state bank printing money and not charging for it. But as we will see this requires a peoples’ state to implement this reform.

    Can we get a state bank that takes the usury out of finance capital?

    The current crisis is not a market failure but a symptom of the crisis that afflicts capitalism, namely falling profits in industry which leads to surplus capital speculating to make a profit in this or that or many markets where prices get totally out of touch with real value.

    When the financial system freezes it looks as if its the problem, but the real problem is overproduction of finance capital in the first place. So a state bank by itself would be hostage to those that control the state – the big banks.

    So if you try to reform the money market without sorting out the fundamental cause of falling profits then you are fucked. Just how fucked is clear from the fact that the investment banks are sucking up taxpayers trillions until kingdom come showing that even though they have been naughty boys, we are the ones who get punished (and us gallingly by one of them JK).

    One way of getting at the causes of surplus capital that ends up in speculation is to tackle the question of land ownership and land speculation which is the no 1 area of capital speculation in NZ.

    The NEF foundation interestingly suggest community ownership of land. This is like the old Henry George movement of the 19th century for leasehold rather than freehold landuse. It was radical then but today it would be revolutionary. But its a good idea since its premised on the fact that huge wealth is generated unproductively in NZ by land speculators, including farmers, who in good times maximise their outputs which in turn are reflected in rising land values.

    But can you imagine what it would take to nationalise the land in this country? Not only hosts of fart taxers on the rampage in their combine harvesters, but every sector downstream (and upstream at the local Catholic church) from transport to to the Aussie banks, pension fund administrators and the bought media who are all hooked on the ‘good times’ generated by land speculation.

    The reason is private property rights and the right to speculate in property to privatise the social investment in infrastructure. Or more blatantly privatising state land like high country farmers. The way to open up this issue is to raise again the need for a capital gains tax that returns to the public the unearned increment in land and provides a tax base for the state to build infrastructure in public ownership without the ripoff of private partnerships. So land nationalisation, state bank, public infrastructure, become the basis of a real New Economy.

    A government of the workers would take a stand on the class divide in defence of the workers who produce the value, against all those who are parasitic on the working class by speculating in land values. That would go to the heart of a New Green Deal.
    (I think that any parroting of the New Deal especially a Green variety is parrodying it).

  19. mike 19

    “a good chance to meet other world leaders’ which, as former member of the dip corp, made me groan”

    You are such a sad sack SP. In one desperate breath you get a cheap shot in on our new PM and name drop about how brilliant you were.

    If by chance something positive is ever achieved by JK in the next 3 years will you find it in your very narrow, bitter, socialist ways to acknowledge it?

  20. randal 20

    hey mike
    I bet you didnt write that yourself
    and I’m not even scholasitic philologist

  21. I love how predictable our righties are, you know I only put in that reference to my former job to get you worked up (and to show I know what I’m talking about) and yet you take the bait.

  22. Tim Ellis 22

    So is it correct SP? Were you a member of the diplomatic corps, as in were you an accredited diplomat at a foreign embassy in New Zealand or a serving New Zealand diplomat at an overseas post?

  23. NX 23

    Apparently John’s been given quite a prominent speaking position – right after the Peruvian President.

    He’s going to give his insight as a former money trader – rather than a political perspective.

    I’m sure he’ll do just fine given his experience in the financial world and his ’08 campaign. He’s probably more qualified than any other NZ politician (including Cullen) to talk on this subject and he just so happens to be our new Prime Minister.

    Quite exciting really.

  24. Jimbo 24

    It’s a bit strange that few people here are prepared to acknowledge the contribution Key could make here.

    On one hand, you say that NZ is a tinpot nation and our new leader doesn’t get automatic mana from the fact that he’s just been elected. Fair enough statement.

    Then you say that HC has earned the mana (presumably through her role as leader of said same tinpot nation) over a number of years. If HC was at this conference, her mana would come from her longetivity as leader of NZ – not any particular expertise in economic matters.

    Then you say/imply that a bloke who was basically one of the leading currency traders at one of the world’s largest merchant banks won’t have anything to contribute to (and won’t be “respected” at) an economic summit during the greatest financial turmoil the world has seen in aeons. That last one is the bit I think is nonsense.

  25. Janet 25

    NX – I do hope he is not a total embarrassment to NZ. He can hardly articulate his words so who knows what the simultaneous translators will make of him. Then his lack of substance on any major issue is a liability. Or maybe they are wanting to hear about the corrupt greed of the money traders that got the world into the current mess, from someone with lived experience.

    Still if he keeps on smiling like Mickey Mouse (as someone noted yesterday) hopefully everyone will just move on politely to the next speaker.

  26. the sprout 26

    I hope that at least for those delegates attending who don’t speak English as their first language, the translators don’t tell them how poorly Key speaks.

    Perhaps he could get some speech lessons on the plane over?

  27. gingercrush 27

    Hmm well watching Sunday on TV One apparently we’re all heading that way in regards to how John Key speaks.

  28. the sprout 28

    No gc the Sunday program was about accent. No problem with that.

    Key’s problem is that he slurs, lisps and mangles his grammar. That’s a different issue entirely, and a deficit that can’t be attributed to accent.

    But certainly having a PM that speaks like that will accelerate the general degradation of NZ English.

  29. Carol 29

    Hmmmm. I do think Key’s speech is a class issue. He basically speaks in much the same way as many Kiwis today, from lower-socio-economic families. As such it does given him the veneer of empathy with “ordinary” Kiwis. Translators will just have to adjust to it. They adjust to a range of ways of articulating English.I don’t see it as a major problem internationally.

    It’s his neoliberal background and fudging of his underlying philosophy that are the main problem with him IMO.

  30. the sprout 30

    You’re right Carol on each count.

    But let’s face it, those who don’t need to rely on a translator to clean up Key’s English will think less of him for sounding like an ignoramus. Even when you adjust for class-originating language issues, they will still frown upon his inability to construct a vaguely grammatical sentence.

    That reflects a lack of logical precision and an inability for formal communication – which in turn translates to “not up to the job”. And those impressions will be spread to other ESOL delegates who aren’t aware of it.

    Whether it’s valid or not, people whose job it is to communicate but who sound like hillbillies tend to be dismissed as fish out of water.

  31. gobsmacked 31

    Anybody who thinks Key’s experience with the funny money is going to impress an audience of international leaders has clearly not been paying attention to the news – and public opinion – in those leaders’ countries.

    I just hope he doesn’t get beaten up.

    Or worse, publicly praised by George W. Bush.

  32. Tim Ellis 32

    Goodness me. The hard left really are out in force showing their true colours this morning: intellectual snobs with a genuine contempt for people from working class roots.

  33. Carol 33

    Well maybe we’ve just swapped leadership styles with the US

    The article begins:

    In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

    Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama’s appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday witnessed the president-elect’s unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

    But Mr. Obama’s decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

    According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it “alienating” to have a president who speaks English as if it were his first language.

    “Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement,” says Mr. Logsdon. “If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist.”

  34. the sprout 34

    “intellectual snobs with a genuine contempt for people from working class roots”

    No not really Tim, more a contempt for being represented by people who sound about as erudite as GW Bush.

  35. gingercrush 35

    I think John Key will do well at APEC. Being his first of many he’ll probably sit back a bit but will take time to talk to other leaders. Listening to Morning Report they reported he would speak with Canada’s Prime Minister. That is a good start. His economic knowledge is his strength and APEC is largely about economics. And at the end of the day most of those countries are heavily focused on markets and that should play to Key’s strength. The fact you all think he’ll be a disaster actually gives me strength that’ll he do a damn good job. But lets face it. To most New Zealanders its a “Ooh Prime Minister John Key shaking hands with Canadian Prime Minister”.

  36. higherstandard 36

    Get over it people we haven’t had a truly good orator in power in NZ since David Lange.

    Neither Key nor Clark are any great shakes on the public speaking front, does this make them any less effective as PMs – I doubt it.

    Regarding APEC anything useful that Key (the NZ delegation) or indeed other PMs (NZ delegations) have achieved in the past won’t occur in front of the cameras anyway, I can’t recall the hard yards in relation to the FTA with China or CER with Australia being done in front of the media.

  37. Janet 37

    Speaking clear English is essential in international fora as if you don’t, the translators will not be able to translate you correctly. And even English speakers from other countries have trouble with the NZ accent and our talking speed. Helen Clark always spoke clearly, slowly and grammatically (and of course brilliantly) although she tended to have the NZ oi vowel.

    What I find particularly interesting (and annoying) about Key”s speech is the sh sound he uses for s – as if he is intoxiated, eg Osh traylia. It is well known from his biography that his father who died when John was young was an alcoholic. So I wonder if he learnt his diction from a drunk father? This is not being judgmental or classist, just being an interested linguist.

  38. Janet 38

    The Canadian Prime Minister is a joke. He is another climate change denier and is only PM because the left in Canada are divided. He recently won another election (they have had a lot lately with their dysfunctional government and no MMP) with the lowest voter turn out ever.

    So no kudos from shaking his hand, sorry.

  39. higherstandard 39

    What you judgmental Janet, surely not.

  40. randal 40

    goodness me we are really self centred this morning
    Tim Ellis imagining that contempt for him is contempt for the whole working class
    geta grip tim

  41. Carol 41

    Janet, that “sh” for “s” sound was one identified by a linguist on a TV programme I watched. As I recall she picked it out as one in keeping with a recent change in NZ English pronunciation. I really do think that us lefties are better to focus on critiquing the content of Key’s utterances, rather than the accent/dialect.

  42. randal 42

    thought for a moment you were talking about sh sean connerry
    not chief sheeple

  43. Ianmac 43

    John Key has expertise in Economics? I thought his expertise was in money markets. Is that the same thing?

  44. Tim Ellis 44

    It is well known from his biography that his father who died when John was young was an alcoholic. So I wonder if he learnt his diction from a drunk father? This is not being judgmental or classist, just being an interested linguist.

    Piss off, Janet. That is a new low in filth-selling even for you.

  45. Janet 45

    So are we all sounding intoxicated now? That’s scary.

    If we are to hear and see JK every 5 minutes in/on the media we are allowed to critique the sounds assaulting us.

    Interesting comment on scoop about the breathless media coverage sounding rather like job applications. I wonder how many of those embedded media on the cessna (or whatever it was) with JK have been affected by the hypnotic power aura around the Nat PM (for the moment). Even Muldoon became attractive with power apparently.

    Personally I prefer principle.

  46. Carol 46

    Well, as I recall, someone (Jane Clifton’s) response on that TV programme was that the recent changes in NZ pronunciation is making people sound like children. Maybe the “sh” thing is a Scottish influence as indicated by Randal.

    Hmmm… I think a politician’s speech style should be criticised if it makes their meaning sound confusing or ambivalent or incoherent (as with Bush W sometimes). But a lot of the criticism I’ve seen of Key’s speech above, seems to be focused on features of his speech that are in keeping with current trends in NZ English, and especially that of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. So, I think we on the left need to be sure we are criticising elements that apply to Key’s speech only, and not to speech of a large section of “ordinary” kiwis.

  47. Janet 47

    There is nothing wrong with being working class or having an alcoholic parent – many of us are/have. But I’m puzzled by middle class people I know of who affect a working class accent.

  48. Tim Ellis 48

    Nonsense, Janet. It was a nasty, gutter smear and you know it. It was of the level of “Helen Clark talks like a man, she must be a lesbian”. Helen Clark can’t change her voice, and John Key can’t change his accent. It’s how they are. Personalising it, and bringing Key’s alcoholic father into the equation is one of the lowest things I’ve seen on this site. It’s vicious and disgusting, and says much more about you and your nasty, arrogant, vicious attitude than it does anybody else.

  49. Janet 49

    What’s so shameful about having a father who is an alcoholic? It seems to be a big deal with you. It’s not a moral issue, and kids can’t chose their parents.
    JK’s childhood has been reported widely in the MSM eg the SST, including that fact.

    You know, some kids have gay parents, some kids have parents who are HIV+, some kids only have one parent, some kids have parents in jail, some kids have parents who have died, some kids have two middle class parents, some kids even have parents who hit them. None of these things are slurs on the poor kids.

  50. insider 50

    Labour leader Phil Goff said this morning that it was good that Key was going to Apec as it would provide a good opportunity to meet with other world leaders and push for coordinated solutions on the global financial crisis, and to work on the Trans Pacific agreement with the US and other countries. ie building relationships counts. But what would he know, not being a highly qualified former diplomat…

    as an aside, he thinks green policy on trade (making it harder) would make the global situation worse.

    PS I think KEy’s ssh’ing is really annoying but it’s what he does. And BTW he could change it just as CLark apparantly did change her voice deliberately to a lower register. It’s called speech training. It’s probably the least of his worries, and ours…

  51. Jimbo 51

    Nasty stuff, Janet. Really scraping the barrell.

  52. Scribe 52


    You know, some kids have gay parents,

    True. So if we said a man had a very high-pitched or effeminate voice and suggested that might be attributed to his homosexual father, that would be OK with you? In fact, I needn’t ask the question; your comments above prove the answer is surely “yes”.

  53. Anita 53


    Huh? I mean… huh?

    (Although, in truth, if you asked me I would, after I stopped boggling, make a relatively coherent argument that gender related voice pitch is a societal thing not a familial thing.)

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