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Holding the Government to Account or Concern Trolling?

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, March 31st, 2020 - 35 comments
Categories: accountability, covid-19, Economy, election 2020, employment, equality, jobs, making shit up, minimum wage, paul goldsmith, Politics, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, wages, welfare, workers' rights - Tags: , , , ,

A healthy democracy relies on a well-functioning Opposition whose job it is to hold the Government to account and to represent an alternative government (in waiting). Over the years, this has morphed into a dirty game of point scoring, which has undermined public trust in the political process and democracy at large.

At present, being an effective Opposition is harder than ever. On the one hand, we need non-partisan solutions and collaboration in these dark times. On the other hand, the Government is making even more far-reaching decisions and using emergency powers, which require a high(er) level of transparency, scrutiny, and accountability.

The current Leader of the Opposition was stuck in electioneering mode and colour blind as well as tone deaf to the changes around him. However, a calmer more rational figure stepped forward in the form of Paul Goldsmith, the cunning campaigner from Epsom, who also is, of course, a member of the 11-member Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) – I cannot think of any reason why they didn’t call it the Pandemic Response Committee. People were impressed with him, as he seemed to say more of the right things than his Leader did at the time. Moreover, some seem to think he’s hot, so hot that they were getting horny for him, allegedly. Different strokes for different folks, of course, so whatever floats your boat, especially in these stressful times.

With the daily updates from varous Government corners, it is guaranteed that mistakes are made whilst we’re moving deeper into unchartered territory day by day. The key is good communication, even more than usual. After a few initial hiccups, the Government now seems to have it down to almost a fine art.

The latest changes to Wage Subsidy Scheme announced on Friday may have contained some ambiguous language in the various stand-up and/or written press releases that led to some confusion. The normal response would be to check and ask for clarification. Not the National Finance Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith though. He constructed a few examples from nowhere (i.e. complete and utter fiction, none of which came even close to the realistic case studies on the Government’s website) to make the point that the new emergency measures were apparently providing some part-time earners an unfair windfall.

If we give Paul Goldsmith the benefit of doubt and assume he genuinely did not understand the scheme, we could and should have left it at that and let it go. However, it is not as simple as that. Because his examples were quite telling.

In his first example, he used a student working 4 hours per week and earning the grand total of $75 gross. His second example was that of a person working three (!) part-time jobs, each earning $100 per week. What do these examples have in common? They are the lowest level of weekly incomes. They are portraying people, real people who do (sub-)exist in NZ society, who struggle to earn a few measly dollars. Who would want to work three part-time jobs a week each earning $100? Unless they have to. Which student would want to work 4 hours per week unless they have to?

In typical National style, Paul Goldsmith blew his dog whistle and picked on people living in Struggle Street and he begrudged them their imaginary windfall of a few dollars. Remember, the subsidy for part-timers is capped at $350 per week (i.e. 20 hours at approximately the minimum wage of $17.70 an hour) yet Paul Goldsmith claimed they were “large windfalls”.

Now, it seems this was all a bigly misunderstanding on Paul Goldsmith’s behalf. The imaginary worker with three part-time jobs was not going to be able to claim three subsidies of $350 each from their three employers. The Minister of Finance did clarify this the next day, as did the PM. Phew! We were dangerously close to a Windfall Tax on low-income earners, which could have pushed the last few paperboys out of business.

It is a huge relief that National has the interests of all New Zealanders at heart, especially the low-income earners, and that they stand firmly for fairness. When this pandemic has blown over, I’d expect National to introduce a CGT forthwith because of the unfairness of the large windfalls that homeowners enjoy over the great unwashed less fortunate Kiwis who have to pay astronomically high rents.

It is good to know we have an effective Opposition holding the Government to account and I look forward to the Election and a fair and clean election campaign. Given that perception is everything (hence the bulging PR teams and their helpful buddies counter-parts in MSM) it often is less important what you say than how you say it. Tone and style are often more important, i.e. influential and key determinants of responses and ensuing discussions, than actual content, which all is very similar to the commentary here on The Standard. Behaving like a concern troll does not make for effective Opposition nor does it build trust in the political process; we all know what happens to concern trolls here on The Standard 😈 

35 comments on “Holding the Government to Account or Concern Trolling?”

  1. A 1

    Sometimes it's best to say nothing at all. smh

  2. greywarshark 2

    Thanks Incognito for highlighting and analysing the criticism from the National Party's spokes-in-the-wheel-men, and not forgetting the women.

    I was interested to see John Key coming forward and criticising some of Simon's utterances. Probably sizes up as 'good cop, bad cop' and could well be part of a rehearsed strategy for forming opinions in election year.

    I take it as a given that the National Party is uninterested in people in general, I think their policies and implementation indicates that. Wealth is what matters, and the market decides who is worthy of respect through the use of it on ostentatious use of it. Any time that Gnashers seem to be taking the side of a struggler or even mid-income person, it pays to look for the real advantage to themselves that they seek. Their coat of arms is topped with the terms – Mendacious and Devious.

    • Wensleydale 2.1

      Key is an irredeemable shit and nothing he says, either today or sometime in the near or distant future will erase his toxic legacy. He's a dishonest opportunist and if it weren't for his superficial charisma and gift of the gab, he'd be in the same boat as Bridges. It'd be best for everyone if he'd just shut up and keep his head down.

      • Jimmy 2.1.1

        I agree, ex leaders should fade in to the sunset. Helen Clark should also keep her mouth shut.

  3. Grant Insley 3

    So who holds the Opposition to account? Making sure they really do raise valid concerns instead of barking at wheels? Do we really have to wait for an election?

    • Wayne 3.1

      I am sure that Standardnista's will being running their usual "National is full of evil people, and are out to crush all decent New Zealanders", as their form of holding the Opposition to account.

      • tc 3.1.1

        yes dear

      • Wensleydale 3.1.2

        National's not full of 'evil people', Wayne. It is full of people who seem quite content to keep their moral compasses firmly in their pockets as they go about the business of looking after their affluent friends at the expense of everyone else, though.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 3.1.3

        "I am sure…"

        "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." – BRussell

      • KJT 3.1.4

        Thinking it is important, to try to deprive people who already have fuck all, of a few dollars, when they are happy to throw millions at the top end of town, isn't evil?

  4. RedBaronCV 4

    Talk about nit picking by Goldsmith. I still don't see wages at the top end being repurposed to assist the lower paid. Why does he not mention that or ask why Airnz has not made much more significant cuts in their top end wages.

    • Muttonbird 4.1

      Yep, they got $300M and are still sacking workers.

      • Wayne 4.1.1

        There is no prospect of Air NZ being able to be the same size as it was before the crisis. That time is at least 5 to 10 years away. So they inevitably have to make redundancies. I presume the unions and Air NZ will negotiate some form of redundancy package depending on length of service.

        • RedBaronCV 4.1.1.1

          I can work that out Wayne but it misses the essential point – somewhere somehow for at least a period of time the taxpayer is supporting this company & we need it too so that we can at least freight some time sensitive goods away or here.

          But where high end salaries have taken only a derisory cut ( 5% for the CEO I think and 15% for the board) & the company is going to shrink – why is so much of this taxpayer subsidy going either directly or indirectly to the top end salaries? The board are still averaging $120k for a PART time job. Don't tell me they are earning it at the moment – if they are then we have been overpaying them for yonks.

          Nor should we underestimate how this affects the overall financial health of an organisation. Some time back I looked at an organisation that wanted to pay the living wage and was being hammered by RW style commentary. A 2% standstill in top wages would have paid the total amount proposed.

          And repurposing high end wages would give more wriggle room in dealing with the general staffing discussions. I think here that Grant should appoint some union reps to the board – even if he has to replace a director like John Key?

          • alwyn 4.1.1.1.1

            "5% for the CEO I think".

            I suggest you start thinking a little harder. It is 15% of his base salary. I suspect it will be 100% off any performance targets he has. Given the drop expected in their income there won't be anything from that source.

            https://www.odt.co.nz/business/air-nz-boss-takes-pay-cut-amid-coronavirus-fears

            Anyone know how much the Cabinet are going to take in pay cuts?

            • RedBaronCV 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Oh I have thought a little harder. The % cuts mean the base goes to a mere $1.4 mill for the CEO. No mention of other executives. The board took 15% cut so for a PART time job they drop to an average of $120k. The place shrinks by 30%

              No matter how you slice and dice it these are still huge absolute numbers compared to whining about $350 per week. Time to repurposethe high incomes. Prime minister gets about $450 k way less than this.

        • RedBaronCV 4.1.1.2

          And all Nact can do is whine about $350 a week or $17.5k. p.a. Even triple dipping isn't going to get them into the executive class. Why not ask about something important.

        • Kevin 4.1.1.3

          I look forward to the CEO’s contract being renegotiated to reflect the realities of this much smaller company.

    • tc 4.2

      Or why they haven't been building up more cash reserves like other airlines have instead of paying dividends given aviation is known to be a volatile business.

      Fair question given they've been bailed out before

    • Wensleydale 4.3

      "Poor people working multiple jobs might end up slightly less poor under this scheme! It's outrageous! I mean, I know we're in the midst of a global pandemic and all, and people are doing the hard yards, but let's not go overboard!"

  5. Bazza64 5

    I don't think you are being totally fair with what Paul Goldsmith pointed out. On the business.govt.nz website for a day or two there was the requirement that you pay out the full subsidy to part timers no matter what they earned. If there was a small difference between the $350 & what they earned say $280 – $300, no big deal. All Paul was pointing out was that in some circumstances there would be some part timers who would be getting paid a lot more than they had ever earned.

    Soon after Paul pointed this out,the government obviously thought his criticisms were valid as they changed their mind about this & updated the business.govt.nz website.

    So you can thank Paul for either:

    a) Keeping the government honest, or

    b) Helping them realise what they proposed was not a good idea & to be fair to Labour they are working under extreme time pressure, but they must have agreed with what he said

    Why not just agree that maybe Labour got this one wrong (not a surprise as they were working in trying circumstances) and as any good government they changed things when they realised their mistake. No big crime in this & the public will be easily forgiving in the circumstances.

    I don't think your post is very honest, it just reinforces left vs right mentality. I agree Simon should have kept his trap shut earlier on as he was a bit slow to realise we were in a real crisis.

    • McFlock 5.1

      Let's say that it was an actual policy oversight and some edge cases were getting overpaid. Who cares? Why would we care?

      The issue is the policy impact. How many people affected, what's the cost. Are they spending three million on tubes that don't fit the ventilators they bought. Have five containers of masks been sitting on the docks while some ED staff are using scarves. Have local suppliers been asking for an order to make equipment they can roll out tomorrow, but the order hasn't come yet.

      That's the shit an opposition needs to be finding right now.

      Theoretical edge cases that the government has to turn around and address because the nats found some imagination in their gutter are a hindrance to actually solving the problem.

      If that's all they've got, the government is doing better than I dare hope.

      • AB 5.1.1

        Yep – it's trick we should be used to by now. Drum up a few edge cases (real or imaginary) to undermine the fundamentally decent intent of the core policy. Even more effective if these examples involve people whom one considers to be one's social inferiors getting an 'undeserved' benefit. It's classic wedge politics. These pr*cks are just so transparent in their repeated sociopathy that I'm afraid it just increases my contempt for humanity at large.

    • So you can thank Paul for…

      …trying to use the media to get the government to waste its time on complicating something it had deliberately made simple – all for the sake of a few edge cases. Someone gots to be giving the guy a medal or something, right?

  6. mauī 6

    Watching the Epidemic Response Committee meeting live stream, half of the Q+A dedicated to right wingers asking about border control measures, then more dumb questions about who we're testing – a bit late for that now. Then Simon wants to wrap for Lunch.

    The poor old Director of Health must be banging his head on the wall. Surely he has better things to do…

    • observer 6.1

      Yes, the MPs might need to review how this is done. It's all new for everyone and I'd cut them some slack at first but they need to be aware that while scrutiny is essential, time is now of the essence and that wasn't the best use of it.

      Worth noting that in Parliament proper, MPs use any down time (when it's not their questions) to check their phones or read documents etc.

      Dr Bloomfield had to sit there politely and do nothing.

      • greywarshark 6.1.1

        Isn't there an informed PR person instead of the Director of Health that can be sent in to the Pandemic Committee? This isn't the Nuremburg Trials; let's get on with things so serious results don't get catastrophic. They will be tempted to use his precious virus-fighting time while they ask their usual vacuous questions as if in Parliament (which means tongues yapping doesn't it)?

        He should be at work, they should be checking out the problems; how to get the equipment faster, and the finances also, and the testing – how quickly can that be done. Why not ask The Standard and TDB etc to stand in for the Opposition, as we are doing it all for free!! Let National and whoever pursue their sandbox play while the grown-ups stress and strain at getting results.

      • RedBaronCV 6.1.2

        Wonder if he has a nap with his eyes open??? We wouldn’t want to take that away from him.

  7. Carolyn_Nth 7

    The opposition MPs in this morning's Epidemic Select Committee asked sensible and important questions.

    The people who appeared before the committee were informed and mostly helpful, although I think there are still some questions that David Clark and Bloomfield didn't totally clear up.

    Some of the main topics:

    Has there been sufficient testing of all with symptoms, where it has mostly focused on people returned from overseas or there contact? The scientist who appeared (Skegg, I think?) thought that the current testing was just tip of the iceberg and that far more community testing needed to be done.

    Are NZ's border isolation, quarantines and testing adequate? Are those in isolation being strongly enough monitored so they are not going out to get food, etc?

    Why aren't all those who need (or maybe want) PPEs getting them. Clark & Bloomfield didn't totally clear up the disparity between government claims there are adequate PPE stocks, while people on the frontline are not getting them? Including those caring for disabled etc in people's homes; and midwives dealing with pregnant women.

    Partly it seems the government & Bloomfield want to be certain that carers get the right sort of equipment and know how to use it. Also, they kind of implied that don't want to give out too many PPEs because they want to hold stuff in reserve in case there’s an influx of people into hospitals.

    Opposition MPs questioned that butchers and greengrocers should be designated as essential. Skegg was concerned there were already too many businesses designated as essential.

    • KJT 7.1

      National complaining about too many businesses being considered essential, which is a concern I share, while conducting a campaign through their "sock puppets" at the same time, to get the opposite, is totally hypocritical.

      • Carolyn_Nth 7.1.1

        It was Dr Skegg, an Otago Uni epidemiologist who appeared before the committee who said that too many businesses were designated as essential. I can't remember the response to that from National MPs.

  8. R.P Mcmurphy 8

    nationals whined and whinged about not being part of the covid response and when they got their piddling little committee all they did was start whining and whingeing allover again. they are nothing but a gang of parasitical fleas. fran sullivan was used to badger the government and this is what we got from the oppo. shame on her and shame on them.

    • Tricledrown 8.1

      Simon Bridges/Matthew Hooton are playing politics at every opportunity ,when we are facing a huge crisis.Hooton is happy to let covid 19 spread to provide herd immunity.So NZ can open its borders sooner.Bridges is pushing a softer line.Claiming Australia is doing a better job .Yet Australia has 5 times the deaths a hospitalizations per head of population.Bridges is no health expert on health.He is playing a dangerous game.

  9. What do these examples have in common? They are the lowest level of weekly incomes. They are portraying people, real people who do (sub-)exist in NZ society, who struggle to earn a few measly dollars.

    One thing you can be very sure of – every National MP keeps a very sharp eye out for instances of the lowest income-earners being helped in some way, so they can denounce it. Goldsmith's just doing his job – the question is why otherwise-reasonable people vote for his party.

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