A forest is made of trees

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, May 10th, 2011 - 36 comments
Categories: budget 2011 - Tags: ,

It took National some weeks to get together a line on their multitudinous spending scandals. When they did, it was rather predictable: ‘Labour’s focused on the small things’. Pretty rich coming from corgi-boy Key. No defence of the actual excesses either. But, naturally, the Herald editorial has swallowed and regurgitated the line.

[Key] says he is happy to accept any scrutiny he is put under but wonders why Labour is raising such trivial issues. He is not alone.

The Budget is just 10 days away and Labour probably expects the Government to preach austerity for the year ahead, and to make one or two savings in social services.

So the Opposition has scoured the accounts of the Prime Minister’s office for expenses it might label hypocritical.

Against a Prime Minister whose popularity is on the wane, this sort of pitch might work. But against one as popular as Helen Clark was for six years, and John Key is now, people must wonder why their opponents appeal to envy. It is only likely to rebound on the Opposition, showing it to be miserable, mean-spirited and out of tune with the country’s mood…

Normal expenses of state are nickels and dimes beside the decisions the country needs.

Look, Labour could try to get put stories of how the government is systematically transferring money from the many to the few through dozens of policies, most notably its tax changes. It could publish screeds on the income effects of tax changes, as Marty used to do here. But would the media cover it? Of course not. Too complicated. Too abstract. And rooted in a materialist, class analysis the media rejects because they people who make the decisions are a) doing quite well out of National’s policies and b) contemptuous of the public’s ability to handle complex information.

Indeed, as Ben Clark points out below, Labour is running extensive campaigns on the big issues like cost of living and asset sales but, with the exception of the excellent Campbell Live pieces last night, the media hardly touches them.

So, instead, Labour is doing the exact right thing. They aren’t whining that the media playing field is unfair. They are using that playing field as best as possible by exposing scandalous microcosms of National’s wider elitism. Yes, $75,000 for a VIP flight to Vanuatu or $275,000 for a gold-plated paint job is small beer in the context of the State as a whole, which spends $200 million per day, but they reveal National’s culture of excess for themselves and for their class.

The Herald says Labour should concentrate on the Budget, well they clearly are. It’s not a coincidence that these stories are coming out in the weeks leading up to the Budget. They are framing National’s Budget with these stories. When Smarmy John gets up on Budget day and says that, unfortunately, times are tough and we’re going to have to fore-go some ‘nice to haves’ like Kiwisaver and Working for Families, we’ll all know that the restraint Key is preaching hasn’t been applied by him or his ministers.

We’ll know they are hypocrites who have spent up large on their own perks and, many magnitudes greater, on favours for their wealthy class. We’ll know that Key’s sad act is a farce.

It is his choices that have put the country in the situation where its deficit must come down and he has chosen to not reverse the billions in tax cuts for the rich to achieve that.

National and its allies may attack Labour for focusing on the trees and losing sight of the forest but it is the numerous small decisions, like the scandals, like the little favours to wealthy interest groups, that have gotten us into this situation. Once the Budget is out and heading into the election, we’ll obviously see Labour critiquing National’s decisions and offering alternatives but pre-Budget, these scandals are all revealing the ugly mindset of Key and co.

The spending scandals are simply representative of the Nats’ attitude as a whole: they and their class is born to rule and to parasite off the State. When things go bad, it’s the rest of us who pick up the bill.

36 comments on “A forest is made of trees”

  1. Daveo 1

    This from a newspaper that’s running a big story on how Hone’s mum was rude to Tariana? They’re clearly concerned about losing papa Key.

  2. ianmac 2

    The editorials and Key’s response suggest that something is hurting them. If it wasn’t wouldn’t they just laugh and leave it as ” happy to accept any scrutiny he (Key) is put under.” Mmmm?

    • terryg 3.1

      Daveo, thanks! Shonkey REALLY didnt like being called on his smile-and-wave bullshit by a mere journalist, did he. That video should be an article all by itself. Scientific research is “just an opinion” indeed!

    • vto 3.2

      Ha ha that is great.

      How come we never get to see John Key being interviewed in depth here in NZ? I don’t think I have ever seen a decent, long and probing interview of our Prime Minister. What’s that about?

    • erentz 3.3

      Oh that’s great, Stephen Sackur posing tough questions and demanding answers, why can’t any of our journalists do that? Be good to see the whole interview if it’s going on the web at some point…

      • Peter 3.3.1

        Overall our MSM are by and large sadly coming across more as Fox news style cheer-leaders.

    • ianmac 3.4

      Yes thanks Daveo. Read your reference yesterday but couldn’t find the link. Ta today.
      The link was well timed given Russell Norman’s Question No 6 today, which related to it directly. And wouldn’t be love’rly if Mr Key was held to account for many of his woolly statements as well as this guy did. Note the way that Key ducked the question 3 today from Annette King, about the Campbell Live Cost of Living item last night. Key refusing to front on Campbell suggests that Campbell is starting to ask the questions that would be hard for Key to answer.
      Watch this space for a hope that the PM becomes held to account.

  3. One could point out that Labour have a large and ongoing campaign on the big issue of Asset Sales. They’re putting out plenty of press releases and pressure on the cost of living. The fact that the media – other than 2 excellent pieces on Campbell Live last night – haven’t been covering those issues isn’t because Labour has only been focussing on the “small stuff” – it’s that the media have only been interested in it, and Labour need to do whatever to get cut-through.

    That said it nicely frames the budget as you say Eddie – big cuts for you the people, “nice to haves” for us, your leaders & betters.

    Love the title of the post btw.

  4. bbfloyd 5

    I’m reminded of the reason the first “standard” was set up in the first place. the only difference i can see between now and then is that the msm do print articles on the labour party. critical, denigrating ones that mislead the public. so they have learnt something at least.

  5. tsmithfield 6

    I don’t know where Labour is trying to go with this line of attack. There are always things that governments spend money on that seem extravagant but in reality are just small change. For instance, Labour spent truckloads on doing up government buildings, as DPF pointed out the other day. Far more than what National is spending on its paint job at the moment.

    The risk for Labour is they are going to look petty and irrelevant by continuing with this line. I am sure people would far rather they focussed their attention on the big issues at the moment rather than being distracted by side-shows.

    • KJT 6.1

      The trouble is, As you can easily see in todays Herald, Only the petty and irrelevant gets published.

      As a smokescreen while the big burglaries take place.

      NACT’s thieving on a small scale is indicative of their larger on going theft though.

    • Bunji 6.2

      You’ve beautifully followed the National talking-points there ts – gold star!

      • tsmithfield 6.2.1

        I don’t have to be following National’s line to point out the obvious.

        • ianmac

          What took you so long to be so predictable TS?

        • McFlock

          I don’t have to be following National’s line to point out the obvious

          Try saying that when you haven’t just used DPF as an authority (without a link btw).

          And of course DPF’s concentrating on the thin dividing line between arbitrary redecoration and legitimate maintenance, not $75k to use the airforce as a personal taxi, however much it was to take DPS to Hawaii, seat warmers in Double Dipton’s fancy airport shuttle, and so on…

          Speaking of which, are they really selling off all the ministerial houses bar a couple? Is it because ministers can rort more off the govt if they rent houses owned by their family trusts?

  6. godder 7

    Swallowed the line? Or, reflecting public sentiment? Any government will have spending which can be criticisied becuase of the inhernet nature of how government works. I think the public recognise that reality and its not a left/right issue.

    Also, I think you kind of missed the bit about how the public may just see the attacks as mean spirited, politicis of envy etc. Given the “rich pricks” debacle of the last Labour government, isnt it time Labour thought that maybe, just maybe, these lines of attack just dont work?

    • ianmac 7.1

      Memo to godder and other agents: We want you to press the line that the question of “Trivial issues” as it seems to be damaging our brand. Keep up the good work. Do not use exactly the same words however or they may smell a rat.
      Memo ends
      Prime Ministers Office
      Cc to C&T

      • godder 7.1.1

        Iam Mac

        Nice try to deflct but it might work if you try and confront the issues not the man.

        I’m actually a Labour voter so I dont think the PM is going to treat me as an agent. Also, my point was whether these attacks by Labour are actually resonating with the public? Are they? Or arent they? I dont know and only time will tell but I dont think the politics of envy worked before and so question whether it will work now.

        And, CV – “Rich Pricks” also include people who lean left. And those people pay a lot of tax. Are you suggesting that without them our country would be better off? How exactly does that work?

        • Colonial Viper

          You a Labour voter?

          Don’t need or want you, I suggest you get lost and vote ACT.

          And, CV – “Rich Pricks” also include people who lean left. And those people pay a lot of tax. Are you suggesting that without them our country would be better off? How exactly does that work?

          You’re sorely mistaken from the start.

          Being rich doesn’t necessarily make you a rich prick.

          Being a tax avoiding prick who is rich does.

          And yes our country would be better off without the rich pricks. Best way to get rid of them is to ensure that they pay a sizeable CGT and assets tax.

          • godder

            At the time, Cullens “rich pricks” comment was focused on people in the then top tax rate of 39% and was a response to the numerous calls for tax cuts. Back then, that was the 9 or 10% of people who paid around 45% of all tax. Not sure what the ratio is now but it might not be too dissimilar.

            • r0b

              Could you refresh my memory with a source for this “rich pricks” comment please? AFAIK it was a one off comment to John Key. (I’m gone now until late tonight so won’t be replying soon).

              • lprent

                Do you expect to get a reply?

                The jerks that say it have this as an article of absolute faith that this was said to every single wanker from the NACT party individually.

                It has very little to do with fact or reality.

            • Colonial Viper

              At the time, Cullens “rich pricks” comment was focused on people in the then top tax rate of 39%

              What, you mean that he was calling himself, the rest of his Cabinet colleagues, and his Prime Minister, Helen Clark “rich pricks”???

              No mate, you’re delusional. And a liar.

        • Draco T Bastard

          /swing cluestick

          The people of the left never use the “politics of envy”. Only the people on the right do.

          • Jim Nald

            The right wingers cunningly play the politics of division and resentment.

          • Colonial Viper

            Well its the Right Wingers who care about “Keeping up with the Joneses” (or the Hotchins, as the case may be).

            Envy is in their DNA so they assume it is in everyone else’s as well.

        • lprent

          I’m actually a Labour voter…

          Yeah right! How often have we seen that meme used. The only people that usually say it are right wing trolls who then wander on to…

          Rich Pricks

          Yep – next paragraph. I bet that it is yet another stupid and pig ignorant ACToid troll – who appears to still be fighting the last election. Anyone care to bet that the silly fool can’t find the actual reference to “Rich Pricks” that r0b has asked for. Anyone also care to bet that it will be too stupid to read the policy and survive here and I will have to put it down. I will try to leave some access for a while so those of you who like to play with their food can have a chance.

          • Jim Nald

            In late 1980s, I swallowed Rogernomics hook, link and sinker.

          • PeteG

            If Labour people want to keep dissing or ignoring people who have voted for them in the past then they deserve 30%, and that’s generous. Someone on another topic today was told to piss off and vote for Act. Way to rebuild support!

            • McFlock

              correction: if the left want to dis or ignore people who claim to have voted Labour in the past and then go on to spout rabid right-wing bullshit, fair enough. The only time those idiots would have voted Labour is 1987. Then NACT ever since.

              Attracting voters like those mean there is no “Labour” party. The last 5th LG was centre-right enough, thankyou very much.

            • Colonial Viper

              If Labour people want to keep dissing or ignoring people who have voted for them in the past


              Don’t need fair weather friends thanks.

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      Given the “rich pricks” debacle of the last Labour government

      Thanks for helping the rich pricks impoverish our country. Every ruling class needs their overseers and enforcers.

      You will be well rewarded with crumbs from your lord’s dining table.

      That is all.

    • Blighty 7.3

      who says it reflects public opinion? you and the anonymous author the the herald editorial? Well, that’s 1 or 2 people

  7. Irascible 8

    The HARDTALK programme was a revelation on two fronts: 1) a revelation of quality journalism and interviewing techniques. The interviewer asked the questions and let the interviewee reveal himself. A big contrast to the journalist interviewing himself in front of the guest as we see in New Zealand. and (2) how ill informed, confused and shallow Key is once he is isolated from the protection of the security of responding with Yes or No answers to all questions or from a fawning PR machine. Shifty wasn’t the only word to describe Key’s performance – cringe making came to mind.

    • ianmac 8.1

      And sad too as he could have accented the honest aspect of NZ attractions instead of bumbling around trying to deny an expert scientific evaluation as just another opinion. (Like with foreign correspondent Jon Stephenson?)

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