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John Key’s dead cat strategy

Written By: - Date published: 9:14 am, May 12th, 2016 - 52 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, Globalisation, International, john key, Media, national, spin, tax, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,

John Key leaving parliament

The repercussions of the Mossack Fonseca leaks are starting to make their way through New Zealand Politics.  John Key and National were oddly silent for a while.  Now they have worked out how to handle matters.

The strategy they are using is the dead cat strategy, jump up and down, say things that are palpably ridiculous, and hope everyone’s attention is diverted.  The strategy is a creation of Lynton Crosby of Crosby and Textor fame and we seem to see it more and more often.  For instance last year when Labour talked about human rights for detainees Key said they were backing the rapists.  The strategy has been described in this way:

There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

McFlock has provided this brief yet precise synopsis of the strategy:

The dead cat is, in its essence, a bullshit argument: the user doesn’t care whether the argument is true, false, or even relevant to the argument. The objective is to get people arguing about the cat, and if someone accuses the cat-thrower of being disingenuous then the next move is to complain about personal abuse.

Key’s reference to Greenpeace and Amnesty and is about as intellectually justifiable as Cameron Slater thinking that Nicky Hager receiving whistleblower information justified his (Slater’s) attempted hacking of the Standard.  And Key’s reference to Mojo Mathers and saying that she has an interest in a foreign trust is contemptible.  It is not the sort of foreign trust that is at issue.  It merely allows Mojo the occasional stay in a foreign house.  Key knows this.  Maintaining this sort of argument is the sort of thing you would expect of a ten year old arguing with their friends in a playground, not the Prime Minister in Parliament.

Some of Key’s other lines are so palpably poor I cannot believe that the media has not ridiculed his claims instead of repeating them.  For instance the claim that New Zealand is not a tax haven.  It clearly is “a high quality jurisdiction for trusts with a benign tax system in certain circumstances”.  Insisting that something is not a duck even though it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck is disingenuous in the extreme.

And the implications of one of Key’s claims, that New Zealand has data exchange agreements with 109 nations, has not been analysed properly.  I presume he is referring to the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters although there are only 93 other signatories (including some states), not 109.

Even accepting that Key’s claims are correct this means there are 85 nations New Zealand does not have an obligation to share data with.  The authorities in Countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay, Taiwan, Western Samoa and Papua New Guinea have no way to see if New Zealand based foreign trusts are being used to hide funds that belong to those countries.

Bill English’s claim that Key’s refusal to abide by the Speaker’s ruling yesterday was “accidental” is of “the dog ate my homework” quality.  While Key was not looking at Speaker Carter at the time unless he had completely lost his ability to hear there is no way that he would not have known that Carter was telling him to sit down.

I am sure that Key and National are really pleased that so far the Panama Papers have not disclosed a National Party donor or MP being involved in illicit business activity.  Key himself with a supposedly blind trust and a former lawyer who sees the virtue of running a business promoting foreign trusts makes you wonder where his trust’s assets are.

National’s primary goal appears to be to attack the quality of the information so that if and when an embarrassing discovery is made they will say that Greenpeace and Amnesty International have been implicated and there is nothing to see here.  Of course this ignores the big issue that our tax system is being used by foreign interests to hide assets and avoid tax.  Our reputation is being hit and other countries are suffering.  An immediate overhaul of the law is the least that we could do.

There is also another benefit from the current smokescreen.  The bill required to implement the TPPA was introduced into Parliament this week.  Such is the rush the bill is lacking a complete Regulatory Impact Statement. MPs are not being told of the full implications of the bill.  The inability to provide a complete RIS makes you wonder if the Government is able to actually justify the claimed benefits of the treaty.  And there needs to be an analysis to see if the Treaty’s provisions will allow action to stop the rorting of our tax system by overseas interests or make it worse.

This debate should be happening now.  But idiot similarities been drawn between Greenpeace and corrupt businessmen and politicians using our system to hide their assets and avoid paying tax are draining the oxygen out of the debate.

52 comments on “John Key’s dead cat strategy ”

  1. Ad 1

    We’ve had a week of it, which is a pretty good run for an attack story.
    But the Panama story has well peaked and the opposition need to move on quick.

    • ianmac 1.1

      Attack story? Surely it is an issue about Tax Havens and dishonest deals. That should be a long term issue affecting every NZer including the Government.. John Key clouding the issue seems to suggest that he/they have something to hide. Otherwise why wouldn’t he be interested it the facts and issues? No.
      And last night on Backbenchers the audience of about 100 voted over 50% that NZ was indeed a tax haven.

      • Macro 1.1.1

        Hear hear!

        • aerobubble 1.1.1.1

          Labour certainly want that too. I mean the PM got himself chucked from parliament for a reason. That even he was out of palpable inane distractions.
          Look at the issue, means to move money through NZ is provided, and naturally some criminals will abuse it, like they abuse the roads to rob banks. But Labour dont want to take Key to the stake, they could so easily make this new industry out as needing a legal upgrade and hammer the law and order issue. Why is our govt protecting the global criminals and riches neolibs who feel they have rights, entitlement to not pay taxes. Mojo did not avoid tax, Greenpeace didn’t avoid paying their taxes, so why would Key justify any policy with such rank nastiness, aka your protecting rapists etc. Labour just does want to lead.

    • Hanswurst 1.2

      Still going on about the “story” and short-term media attention, I see. If the opposition just keep highlighting fleeting issues, we’ll continue to see Key dodging them superficially and moving on. If there is one thing the current government has shown, it’s that it won’t be caught flat-footed in the face of constantly changing issues. Key will just throw out a couple of sound-bites, or farm it out to some less high-profile minister and be done with it. What is needed is for the government to be nailed in some way that leaves a lasting impression of poor governance. This tax issue is big, and tax evasion is a concept that easily captures the imagination as representing a broken system. The longer it hangs around as an issue (even slightly out of the limelight), and the more the government needs to go on record dealing with it, the greater the chance their hypocrisy will be exposed and recalled again and again in the face of other issues further down the line.

      On a related note, since you were saying the same thing about the Saudi sheep issue: when McCully was implicated in the recent Niue hotel affair, it would have been invaluable that there was sustained oxygen for the “sheepgate” affair some months earlier. Instead of saying, “Oh yeah, Niue, whatever,” many would have been thinking, “Donations and McCully… wasn’t McCully that sheep guy? Hmmm.”. This issue will have the same effect on Key, the more so the longer it bubbles away.

  2. Stuart Munro 2

    Spin it any way you like – Key ran like a yeller dog. This is not winning.

  3. adam 3

    I’m reminded of this…

  4. heather 4

    Not only a dead cat on the table but a big red herring as well.
    This man is a master at deflection, his master Crosby and Textor have trained him well

    • Stuart Munro 4.1

      Well up to a point – if the MSM weren’t utterly crawly sycophants they’d go downtown on this useless, $150 billion losing crook and the new criminal tax-evading backers he is lining up for the National party.

      There is no genius in dishonesty – only shame.

  5. Rosemary McDonald 5

    “Such is the rush the bill is lacking a complete Regulatory Impact Statement. MPs are not being told of the full implications of the bill. The inability to provide a complete RIS makes you wonder if the Government is able to actually justify the claimed benefits of the treaty.”

    Here’s a Regulatory Impact Statement….

    http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/informationreleases/ris/pdfs/ris-moh-fcc-may13.pdf

    ….which justified this legislation,

    http://pundit.co.nz/content/i-think-national-just-broke-our-constitution

    Those of us who know what lies were told, what misinformation was fed to the media and who now live with the consequences of the piece of work…

    Someone needs to keep shouting about this stuff.

    • Pat 5.1

      “Someone needs to keep shouting about this stuff.”

      and we know who that someone isn’t…….

  6. Enough is Enough 6

    The strategy from Little has allowed Key to bluster like he is.

    Banning foreign trusts is such a ridiculously stupid proposal that it has opened up these diversionary tactics from Key like highlighting Mojo’s interest.

    We need to be highlighting real examples of where New Zealand is being used and abused by foreign trusts. This broad general approach without specifying actual examples is perfect for Key and difficult for the public to understand how we are being used.

    • Brokenback 6.1

      Please explain “Banning foreign trusts is such a ridiculously stupid proposal”

      • Enough is Enough 6.1.1

        Example 1

        I am an English immigrant living in New Zealand. I have $100 in my bank account. I die. I leave my $100 on trust for the benefit of my children who live in England. My wife can live off the interest until she dies at which time the principal sum, which has been held in trust, will be transferred to my English based children.

        Example 2

        I live in Foreign Country A. I am saving for my retirement and now have $100 in my bank. The banking system in Foreign Country A is close to collapse and I worry about what will happen to my saving. I transfer my savings to Mr Trustee in New Zealand to hold that money in trust for me. I continue to reside if Foreign Country A safe in the knowledge my money is safe in New Zealand.

        Andrew Little’s proposal would potentially ban both of these legitimate arrangements.

        • Dialey 6.1.1.1

          Do you seriously believe that your 2 examples would go through the convoluted and secretive processes tha the MF/ Panama papers reveal is rife among these foreign trusts?

        • UncookedSelachimorpha 6.1.1.2

          Many proposals have a positive and negative side. The benefit and necessity of your examples seems weak, compared to the damage caused by NZ’s laws assisting the corrupt and the greedy to evade paying tax or outright laundering of ill-gotten gains.

          There are alternatives to both your scenarios – e.g. in A the person could just give the money to his wife and rely on her to carry out his wishes.

        • Stuart Munro 6.1.1.3

          Neither of your examples benefits NZ – why should NZ accomodate them?

          I am sure there are several kinds of trust no-one has any problem with: charitable, heritage, environmental for starters.

          For trusts to be tolerated they should be candid with NZ IRD, and those which do not meet the tight criteria must close. Criminal trusts, like tax evasion trusts or the proceeds of crime should simply be seized.

          • Enough is Enough 6.1.1.3.1

            Yes I agree completely.

            It is Little who claimed all foreign trusts should be closed, which is a silly proposal. It should only be foreign trusts which are trying to hide from tax obligations or hide crimes which need to closed.

            There is nothing criminal or immoral about the two examples I have given you but they would be caught by Little’s ban on foreign trusts.

  7. Ed 7

    There was undoubtedly an aspect of National realising that their denials were failing, and of Key also “losing the plot”as his spin was seen to be not working. Both he and Carter had slight smiles when the planned theatre happened – it was an attempt to address two issues – both getting Key out from under, and trying to pretend that Carter is fair in his job as Speaker. To use a National phrase however, it was “not a good look”for the government.

    • Wayne 7.1

      Ed,

      Parliamentary questioning is far more spontaneous than you think, especially among the most experienced members. Things can blow up when not expected. Questions may go down an unanticipated line. Points of order can get out of control. People may misread the Speaker. Ministers may get too enthusiastic, more than they intended, ie they get on a roll.

      Of course a lot of prep goes into question and answers, but in reality much of it is not able to be used. In particular the best practitioners are able to think on their feet. For instance depart from a pre-planned set of questions or pre-planed set of answers.

      So in my view there was no chance that this was a set up, or was expected.

      • Augustus 7.1.1

        “ministers may get too enthusiastic”..

        I just wish, just once, to see a National minister get enthusiastic about, say, disabled New Zealanders. As in helping them, not deprive them further. But foreign tax dodgers are much more the scene they enthuse about.

      • Macro 7.1.2

        If this is so Wayne, it makes it all the more insidious, that the Prime Minister when caught out making false allegations* against such erstwhile organisations as Red Cross and Amnesty International, and even Greenpeace (without whom the major polluters of this world would now be running amok), is unable to withdraw his contemptible remarks and apologise.

        *The 3 charities referred to by the Prime Minister in his statements to the house flatly deny that they use secret foreign trusts (such as are the subject of the Panama Papers) for any purpose, or to avoid payment of tax. And why would they need to? Furthermore, the use by some dubious secret trusts to illegally and maliciously, use the names of charities to provide a smoke screen over their practices makes it all the more urgent that these trusts be opened up to the full light of day

      • North 7.1.3

        Thanks for your achingly sobre still irrelevant contribution to the issues at hand Wayne. You obviously retained your Crosby Textor Manual.

        Said manual – “Always say something, literally anything will do, as long as it deflects and has the overall tone of denial/minimisation.” Key wantonly made the Speaker his plaything yesterday. The “Hahaha I’m a naughty boy…….” mugshot immediately afterwards says it all about Key. Highly developed cunning in an entitled child. Whose immaturity defeats the concept of personal responsibility and the observance of resulting boundaries.

      • Stuart Munro 7.1.4

        While in the main Gnat ministers are simply too stupid to preplan such a thing, Key is as shifty as they come, and frankly has no explanations for his unsavoury love for tax evasion that will bear public scrutiny.

        The usual presumption, not to presume malice when stupidity will do, must be set aside in his case. The man is utterly corrupt.

      • Puddleglum 7.1.5

        So in my view there was no chance that this was a set up, or was expected.

        So, given that both Key and Carter are likely to be some of, in you words, ‘the best practitioners’ they may well have ‘thought on their feet’, read each others’ signals and contrived this piece of theatre as skilled improvisation.

        Or would such ‘skill’ be beyond their abilities?

      • Jenny Kirk 7.1.6

        Hah ! and I don’t believe you one little moment.
        Sure – there’s the prep beforehand but in this case there was prep the day before as well. I thought it very very ODD the day before when the Speaker gave the PM a warning about a fairly trivial matter – speaking while he was on his feet – which the PM has done a number of times before then. And right on cue, this second day of the week, the Speaker on his feet, and the PM starts playing up !
        Pull my other leg, Wayne Mapp !!

  8. Jack Ramaka 8

    We need critical professional analysis of the Panama Papers not just dog whistling otherwise JK and Crosby Textor will just make the Opposition parties look stupid ?

    • Stuart Munro 8.1

      Yup – but not from the enabling lawyers (or former lawyers), since they have a disqualifying conflict of interest.

    • Reddelusion 8.3

      They do a fine job of that without any help

    • Chuck 8.4

      Is that not what Nicky Hagar is doing?

      • Stuart Munro 8.4.1

        Indeed.

        But if the government were not absolutely riddled with corruption THEY would want it done. In the public interest.

        Since they don’t, we can safely conclude that they are complicit. Guilty as sin and ripe for the hangman.

  9. Brokenback 9

    The crux of the tax evasion/ criminal consorting that exists in NZ from these foreign trusts is the completely unique entity that has been name dropped in the media but not actually defined and given the investigation it warrants.
    Look Through Company , LTC
    Here is the simplest analysis I’ve found https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look-through_company

    The spin on this has been to trivialise/normalise an entity without peer anywhere else in the world.
    The wiki reference contains a passing reference to how LTC’s came to be legal .
    The enabling legislation was introduced in the 2010 Budget which means that Parliament and the public get no chance to scrutinise the legislation and discuss any benefits or pitfalls.
    This a defining aspect of our current regime.
    The new legislation was rammed through the normal democratic process and passed under urgency within the auspices of Confidence & Supply , i.e. the Government’s legitimacy to rule.
    Who dreamed up this little gem and rammed it home???

    This was in the first term of the current government where NZ First and Winston Peters were not present.
    If they had been I’m sure we would have heard a little more about it.
    Chris Trotters piece in the Daily Bog yesterday was relevant and timely.
    We now have a community , inured by 30 years of free market BS for which the ‘Dry Cabal’ in the parliamentary Labour party can claim significant responsibility , that does not give a sh*t about anything other than their constantly expanding ‘wealth’ and the cargo cult it has created.
    Dead cat Rules.

    • The New Student 9.1

      Yes I think that’s a good point. IRD already submitted their consultation doco thingy on ltc and other closely held companies in September last year. It’s fascinating reading for the uninitiated such as myself. I can’t remember if it goes into the how and why ltcs replaced laqcs and where qcs fit in, I did read that somewhere along the way. It seems to me that IRD have been trying to make noise on this for ages only to fall on deaf ears

  10. Richardrawshark 10

    Blaming a Crosby Textor style of handling political issues isn’t helping us any. Sure it may give us an excuse for our poor performance to say hey they use expensive publicity managers.

    But it’s not helping the cause any. IMHO.

    Greens and NZ first apart from Winston, tend to struggle with parliamentary rules..they are paid enough study them..instead of having water cooler talks every day.

    When I see labour I see frustration at the answers they are getting.

    Well instead of asking bill English to repeat a stat he’s never going to how about asking the question properly.

    The ..*whatever* report shows unemployment has risen by 86k since 2008, this is an increase of whatever, does the minister have any idea why.. bla bla whatever next part of question..

    Stop trying to paint him into a corner.. ask the question differently. Assume your right and the figures are correct and make him look a dick trying to show the figures are wrong.

    • Dialey 10.1

      Yes, whatever happened to good old what, why, when, where and how. Enough of those “Does the minister stand by his statement……..?” So wishy washy and ineffective as it only commands the answer “yes”

    • Jenny Kirk 10.2

      There’s a basic problem Richardrawshark, and others.
      Questions HAVE to be worded a certain way so they can be asked in the House. I dunno what those certain ways are, but I do know that whenever I offered a suggestion for a question it was turned, and turned around by the Whips because of certain rules (if theyagreed with it being a question) , until you didn’t know whether it was arthur or martha or someone else !!

  11. suzyiam 11

    This does not look like a man with his tail between his legs, like Key told journalists. Surely he wouldn’t lie to them?

  12. ming 12

    The do nothin PM – weirdly summed up in this: https://vid.me/h1Fg

  13. Tory 13

    For some balance to your debate, have a read of Chris Trotters latest column, here is an extract from the comments that gets to the meat of the subject about the popularity of JK:

    Blogger Peter Patterson said:
    Aren’t you part of the Left? Why aren’t you giving advice on how to get rid of Key? We know the future is in the hands of Andrew Little. If he is unsuccessful in 2017 it will be in Stuart Nash’s hands. He, at present, is building up his own support base in the Hawkes Bay.

    10 May 2016 at 10:37

    Blogger Chris Trotter said:
    Not while it foolishly personalizes what is both a cultural and structural problem, Peter. Not while the NZ Left continues to rely upon the most puerile kind of political analysis. Not while it demonstrates how very little it knows about – let alone understands – the motivations and behaviours of its fellow citizens.
    For the Left to win it needs to know how to reach the people whose votes can make it the government. Inciting moral panic Ain’t the way.
    Perhaps someone should research how many Labour and Green MPs have set up family trusts – and why?

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=3753486518085091399&postID=8405339225712875414&bpli=1

    Just keep on promoting the negative, its great for JK and another term of National 🙂

  14. greywarshark 14

    I was quite diverted by the pic yesterday with Key with the yellow wig and red nose.
    Has he been doing something amazing? He is such a friendly clown, should be at all the children’s parties.
    /sarc

  15. Am I the only one who thinks that Key’s dismissal from Parliament was a bit suspicious. Seemed a good way of getting out off a tight corner. it’s time we demanded a different Speaker.His bias is obvious,and this dismissal is disgraceful. ,

  16. Jack Ramaka 17

    Key is the master of red herrings and dead cats, the Panama Papers need some meat added to the bone to get a Dead Cat Bounce otherwise it is going to die a natural death.

  17. Penny Bright 18

    Here’s a wee ‘dead lion’ for the rather large current UK anti-corruption conference table – regarding New Zealand’s corruption ‘reality’?

    Looking forward to this OIA reply …..

    __________________________________________________________

    12 May 2016

    ‘Open letter / OIA request’ to the Minister of Police, Judith Collins, to please provide the information which explains why New Zealand does not yet have the following anti-corruption measures in place, given New Zealand is ‘perceived’ to be the now fourth ‘least corrupt country in the world’ according to the Transparency International 2015 ‘Corruption Perception Index’:

    1) Make ALL facilitation payments (BRIBES) illegal.

    2) Legislate to create an NZ independent anti-corruption body, tasked with educating the public and preventing corruption.

    3) Legislate for NZ members of Parliament (who make the rules for everyone else) to have a legally enforceable Code of Conduct.

    4) Make it an offence under the Local Government Act 2002, for NZ Local Government elected representatives to breach their Code of Conduct.

    5) Make it lawful, mandatory requirement for Local Government elected representatives to complete a Register of Interests which is available for public scrutiny.

    6) Make it a lawful, mandatory requirement for Local Government staff, responsible for property or procurement, to complete a Register of Interests which is available for public scrutiny.

    7) Make it lawful, mandatory requirement for Local Government Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) Directors and staff, responsible for property or procurement, to complete a Register of Interests which is available for public scrutiny.

    8) Fully implement and enforce the Public Records Act 2005, to ensure public records are available for public scrutiny.

    9) Make it a lawful requirement that a cost-benefit analysis of NZ Central Government and Local Government public finances must be undertaken, to prove that private procurement of public services previously provided in house is cost-effective for the public majority of tax payers and rate payers.

    10) Legislate for a legally enforceable Code of Conduct for members of the NZ Judiciary, to ensure that they are not above the law.

    11) Legislate to provide a publicly-available NZ Judicial Register of Interests to help prevent conflicts of interest.

    12) Ensure ALL NZ Court proceedings are recorded, with audio records available to parties who request them.

    13) Legislate for a publicly-available NZ Register of Lobbyists, and Code of Conduct for lobbyists.

    14) Legislate for a post-separation employment ( ‘revolving door’ ) quarantine period from the time officials leave the public service, to take up a similar role in the private sector.

    15) Legislate to make it a lawful requirement that it is only a binding vote of the public majority that can determine whether public assets held at NZ central or local government are sold, or long-term leased via Public Private Partnerships.

    16) Legislate to make it unlawful for politicians to knowingly misrepresent their policies prior to central or local government elections.

    17) Legislate to protect individuals, NGOs and community-based organisations, who are ‘whistle-blowing’ against conflicts of interests and and alleged corrupt practices at central and local government level and within the judiciary.

    18) Legislate to prevent State Capture – where vested interests get what they want, at the policy level, before laws are passed which serve their vested interests.

    2016 Auckland Mayoral candidate Penny Bright
    ……

    Attendee: 2009 Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference
    Attendee: 2010 Transparency International Anti-Corruption Conference
    Attendee: 2013 Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference
    Attendee: 2014 G20 Anti-Corruption Conference
    Attendee: 2015 Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference

    • Reddelusion 18.1

      I would add one other, citizens must pay thier rates and not corrupt the system by living off others

      • Penny Bright 18.1.1

        Auckland Council should ‘open the books’ and make available for public scrutiny where exactly rates monies are being spent on private sector consultants and contractors.

        Unless of course you believe that Councils should not be held accountable to the ‘rule of law’?

        Surely not.

        Kind regards

        Penny Bright
        2016 Auckland Mayoral candidate.

      • WILD KATIPO 18.1.2

        ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
        llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

        This one ( Reddelusion ) seems to think its ok to sit through a documentary about civil wars and famines and see pictures of starving kids with pot bellies with fly’s crawling round their mouths and then justify zero tax foreign trusts set up here in NZ and ignore what those collective trusts cause worldwide…

        18 TRILLION DOLLARS IN MISSING GLOBAL FUNDS- MORE THAN THE TOTAL WEALTH OF THE USA.

        Key the tax haven enabler.

        He also seems to think its OK if child porn rings and human traffickers can launder cash through them and tough bickies if INTERPOL and the Police cant track the ringleaders , freeze their assets or cash and press charges because of inadequate disclosure laws.

  18. Smilin 19

    If in the west w e didnt drink alcohol with our politics then maybe there would be more dead cats to argue about until there was no more dead cats or politicians and we would be able to start with a clean slate and shoot more cats or politicians or maybe leave the cats and just shoot the politicians then the cats would have something to argue about, politics .

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  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
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