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National’s week from hell

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, July 26th, 2015 - 43 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, Hekia parata, labour, national, national/act government, Politics, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

When historians look back at the records of the fifth National Government I think they will agree that the past week was their worst to date. The weeks when Dirty Politics was released and when Judith Collins’ ministerial career was terminated were bad ones but at least they were able to fight back and bluster as if there was nothing to worry about and they were in control.  This week there has been no effective bluster, no counter attack, just a series of defensive manoeuvres trying to minimise the effect of a series of devastating blows.

Serco has dominated. After a few weeks of devastating bad news and a clear sense that the miracle of private enterprise was not delivering the improved result at a cheaper price the avalanche of bad news was devastating. The death of Nick Evans and the impression he was transferred while dying to a state prison so that he would not hurt the corporate bottom line, evidence of drug taking, alcohol brewing, gang intimidation, the dropping and beating up of inmates, the sense of complete chaos in a prison because corporate interests mean that staffing levels are less than they would be in a State prison, this will hurt.

Even during the past 24 hours there have been further revelations of possible gang rape and of rampant drug taking and the ready access of drugs for sale.  And Serco staff do not seem to care.  They seem to be more interested in not seeing or having to report episodes of violence or drug taking.

The techniques used to smuggle goods into the prison clearly show how cellphones and drugs could have been introduced.  And the filming of the consumption of one

And the sleeper issues are how Serco was considered to be the top performing prison, and how this can be reconciled with data suggesting that the incidence of violent incidents and attacks on prison officers was the highest in the country, not to mention the incidence of inter inmate violence or the fact that a riot was not recorded as being one. You get the feeling that Serco’s management are not recording incidents the way they should be.

Then Hekia Parata’s decision to respond to a recommendation that she close a poorly performing charter school by paying it even more money was publicised. These guys are not amateurs. This decision could have been delayed. Releasing it today suggested a decision was made that things were that bad they may as well dump a few bad news stories and hope that the wash would mean they both disappeared without too much accentuation of the story. But this is a shocker. These guys are meant to be economic and managerial geniuses and they are meant to take no prisoners and let the invisible hand of the market decide. But this decision suggested strongly that they are willing to spend public money to avoid political embarrassment.

The other stories that will hurt are two court decisions. The first was a comprehensive spanking of the Government’s decision to discontinue the Problem Gambling Foundation’s funding.  Sure it had criticised the Government’s decision to legislate to allow Sky City significant gambling concessions but in a democracy this should not be a problem.  Although then National backbencher Tau Henare thought it did.

Tau Henare tweet

Andrew Geddis at Pundit summarises the finding in this way:

So, to summarise, the High Court has just told us that the PGF lost its government contract after being very vocally critical of government policy through a process that;

  1. Changed the ground-rules as to how the contracts would be awarded after organisations had bid for them;
  2. So wrongly assessed the PGF’s application that the apparent result couldn’t be trusted; and
  3. Used people to assess who should get the contract who were at least apparently biased in favour of some applicants over others.

This is, remember, the process that Peter Dunne defended as “robust, independent, it’s been peer reviewed and it’s probably one of the better processes that has been undertaken in this area for a very long time.”

Kind of a different story to that some members of the commetariat were telling at the time, isn’t it?

The decision always had a feeling of a crude political hatchet job and the decision, expressed in the most careful language possible, reinforces that feeling.

And the second case to embarrass the Government and interestingly Tau Henare was the declaration that Tau’s bill removing the rights of prisoners to vote was contrary to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.  Unfortunately the decision is no more than that and the law is not changed.  Although there must be a moral imperative for the Government to repeal this particular Act, at least if it was interested in respecting human rights and the rule of law.

Again Andrew Geddis has provided informed and succinct comment on the decision.

In a nutshell, his honour finds not only that the decision to remove the rights of prisoners to vote limits their right to vote (obviously!), but also that this decision cannot be “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society“. That is to say, the effect of the measure is so arbitrary and inconsistent that it cannot rationally be defended … it is (to put it colloquially) a crappy thing to do.

The decision could be considered a pyrrhic victory as the law is not actually changed by the decision.  But there is now a moral imperative to change the law.  As Geddis puts it:

However, it does mark the judiciary’s formal legal finding that this law (while still the one they have to follow) is BAD LAW. Parliament has done something that a properly functioning legislature simply ought not to do – taken away peoples’ rights without having a good reason for doing so. And the High Court is looking them right in the eye and saying so.

Now, of course, Parliament (or, let’s be honest, the National Government) may stare back and say “so what?” But it shouldn’t. It really shouldn’t. Because this is about more than just getting a political boost by beating up on prisoners (an unfortunate phrase, perhaps, given what we’re learning about Mount Eden … ). It’s about what good government entails, and the way that public power can legitimately be exercised.

In a nutshell, where a Court is expressly telling the lawmakers that they have failed, that shouldn’t be something to just get shrugged off with a brusque “we don’t have to listen to you”. It’s a warning that the Government and Parliament owe it to us to listen to and take very, very seriously.

So in a week where we saw the destruction of National’s privatisation policy of social policy, the spanking of National’s undermining of the Problem Gambling Foundation and the ruling that  National’s legislation removing the rights of some prisoners to vote was a breach of the country’s human rights we can safely conclude that this was the week from hell for National.

May they have many more.

43 comments on “National’s week from hell”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    Is there electoral advantage for national in removing non national voting blocks off the electoral map.
    Did they not care about prisoners voting until Nikki Kaye won Auckland Central?
    If theres around 1000 in MT Eden thats a fair chunk, along with 1000 in Rimutaka and 950 in Christchurch.
    Other prisons could be in swing seats

    • b waghorn 1.1

      Shouldn’t there vote be counted in the electorate that they class as home.

    • Flashing Light 1.2

      Is there electoral advantage for national in removing non national voting blocks off the electoral map.

      No – prisoners are not be considered “residents” of the electorate that the prison is in as they do not “choose” to make it their residence. See Arthur Taylor’s electoral petition against John Key (where the Court found that his being imprisoned in Paremoremo did not make him a resident of Helensville)

      The issue is purely symbolic. National used it to look “tough on crime”, while setting a trap for Labour/Greens (“why do they want to give criminals the vote?”). It is cynical wedge politics of the worst sort.

      • dukeofurl 1.2.1

        Wasnt his situation AFTER the law was changed not to allow votes for prisoners.

        So the court said he wasn’t a resident but if they were allowed to vote isnt the only qualification that you have been living at that address for a minimum of one month.

        Not choosing to live there is a new one for me, does the law say that or is it the way the judge looked at it to give the ‘right answer’
        I could think of 18 year old who live at home, not choosing to live there, but just because their parents do too.

        • Flashing Light 1.2.1.1

          Electoral Act 1993, s.72(3): “A person resides at the place where that person chooses to make his or her home by reason of family or personal relations, or for other domestic or personal reasons.”

          Section 72(5) then states: “A person who is detained in any prison or hospital by virtue of any enactment shall not, by reason only of that detention, be treated for the purpose of subsection (3) as residing there.”

          • dukeofurl 1.2.1.1.1

            The 1993 change tells it all really . National didnt want rural prisons affecting their rural seats

  2. Kate Lang 2

    Hell! May they have many more! The crash is coming.

  3. tangled_up 3

    3News-Reid Research poll to be released tonight.

    • dv 3.1

      The Conservatives on 0.7% a drop of 3.4% from election night.

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11486938

      I suspect that will bleed to the Nats

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        Still running the ridiculous line that the sauna interview had something to do with the disintegration of the party, and not that Craig was a massive hypocritical, egotistical liar.

      • McGrath 3.1.2

        I suspect that National’s (and Labour’s) polling will remain largely unchanged.

        If there were major shifts with either party, 3news would have put out much better “teaser trailer” (for lack of a better description) than “Conservatives gone”.

        • Colonial Viper 3.1.2.1

          this will be the first poll measuring the full impact of Labour’s ‘Chinese’ ploy. It will be interesting, to say the least.

          • Paul 3.1.2.1.1

            Do you actually want a change of government?
            Sometimes I wonder.

            • cricklewood 3.1.2.1.1.1

              A change yes, a change to Nat lite not so much…

              • leftie

                @cricklewood

                It is either National led or Labour led. Labour would be way better than National any day.

                • cricklewood

                  That’s true… but if you’re looking for real fundamental change in how our society operates Labour in the last few years hasn’t been offering a lot in comparison to earlier Labour governments…

            • leftie 3.1.2.1.1.2

              @Paul.

              +1

          • McGrath 3.1.2.1.2

            My prophecy was bang on the money!

            Now if only I could apply it to Lotto…

  4. trendy lefty 4

    A Pyrrhic victory is “a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat”. So this isn’t an example of a Pyrrhic victory at all. Just a finding by the courts that doesn’t change anything because the legislation referred to doesn’t create any offences or penalties.

    Jussayin’.

  5. indiana 5

    If this is a week of hell for National, does that mean that Labour has been have a week in heaven?

  6. Smilin 6

    Another show for the billing from the rockstar economy
    Berco Serco (excuse the spelling) and its amazing magic on performance
    Yes bullshit has now become a credible term being upheld by this overview govt that it would seem can never being held accountable for any of its actions

  7. hoom 7

    Given how much corrupt/incompetent/outrageously extreme rightwing stuff they have gotten away with already I see no reason that this week will make any difference.

  8. Keith 8

    It is incredible that until the Kelvin Davis exposé of Mt Eden prisons hourly life of abuse and extreme violence, that this dirty little secret remained firmly between Serco and the National Party and no other. Such is Nationals control over anything that may harm their bullshit image and such is the neutered or compromised media we have today, that apart from vague rumours New Zealand was unaware.

    I am realistic enough to know that the types that love and call Newstalk ZB and their hosts complaining of how jails are nothing more than 5 star hotels will be impressed and think National are doing a fine job. But really this inhumanity is the stuff of a bygone Dickens era, not 2015 and that National knew or as they put it, chose not to know is unbelievable.

    However on the subject of prisoners voter rights and Charter Schools with pay-off’s to go quietly , this will remain beltway material. Making annoying people go away by giving them contracts or otherwise is a hallmark of this National government and for many the obvious lack of ethics or morals and for all intents and purposes, corruption, is to complex to think about. And very few give a thought to prisoners rights.

  9. Incognito 9

    Perhaps this was the Government’s “week from hell”. However, National – the party – may ‘suffer’ one or two points in the polls as a consequence – who knows for sure why polls fluctuate – while the country or segments of the population are already suffering! So today, I cannot ‘rejoice’ in the utter incompetence of some Ministers and the awful mismanagement displayed by Cabinet and it is my wish and hope that the Government “may not have many more”.

  10. McGrath 10

    It might be a bad week, but it’s on subjects that the vast masses do not really care, or have little sympathy for.

    Prisoners having a hard time of it elicits minimal sympathy. I’d say most people would rather prefer if prisoners had no voting privileges at all (or suffer more ‘treatment’) regardless of the bill of rights. The government stepping in also looks as if they’re being decisive, whereas the blame is coming across as all Serco

    I doubt Labour will push too hard on the prisoner welfare issue, at the fear of being seen as ‘soft on prisoners’. Focus will remain on the Corrections minister though, who does look way out of his depth.

    • Tracey 10.1

      the PGF decision makes, or should make, Dunne feel embarrassed and consider whether he is up to these roles. the PGF have been proven correct in their assertions at the time.

      MOST importantly money has been diverted from assisting problem gamblers, into a flawed process which now has to be redone, legal fees on both sides , salaries/fees to those with predisposed biases (and who appointed them with that knowledge) and time and probably jobs and expertise in PGF.

      still righties support such waste and incompetence with ” their” taxes.

      • McGrath 10.1.1

        I don’t know much about the background behind the PGF decision. What I will mention is that society is a lot less caring these days. By accident or design (or both), a fair chunk of voters care only about the immediate impact of decisions upon themselves or their immediate families. It is why prisoners rights, prisoners treatment, or problem gamblers register lower on the ‘do I care’ scale.

        I’m not saying that it’s right, just what it is.

        • Tracey 10.1.1.1

          It’s a strange thing though McGrath because the kiwis I meet mainly do care and give a shit. Its like John Key is like ABBA in the 70’s… everyone had the records but no one admitted to liking ABBA…

          But mostly don’t we reflect our leadership to a greater or lesser extent, and this current government and a few before it have sent a strong message that money is the measure of everything, getting more is the goal, anything less and you are worthless.

    • Brian Smith 10.2

      And those very same people who’d prefer no voting privileges for prisoners will probably blame the Corrections minister because he is not ‘white’ and is therefore incompetent. John Key however, will be unaffected, because these people want to be like him- hence the drip-feeding of his lifestyle and what his family get up to!! Sick

  11. My advice to Labour and Andrew Little is don’t back down on your stance on Auckland’s immigration problems.

    Dave and John have a telephone conversation.

  12. Nick Morris 12

    Bad weeks for the administration may encourage opposition activists but to influence voters other rules apply.
    Calm assurance and sure-footed confidence in the suggestion that there are obvious, simple things that can and should be done is one attribute.Suggesting that the current government has strayed from the essence of what constitutes Kiwi values is helpful. Scornful rejection of the status quo is another. Lastly,the promotion of your leader as both an attractive personality and the voice of the people will also crank up the ratings.
    Policy both good and bad are relatively unimportant and over emphasis on those areas will mostly lose you votes.
    People are voting for an assured hand on the tiller, not a policy menu.
    Individual causes celebres may attract attention, but when you have that attention, see above.
    This is not entirely irrational. For the most part, governments are dealing with unforseen events.
    So we need not be too concerned about transitory polls, but we might consider worrying if we do not see enough of….see above.

  13. Penny Bright 13

    GREAT demo today (Sunday 26 July 2015) outside the Auckland Sky City Casino (where the National Party were having their 79th Conference)
    exposing the CORRUPT ‘conflict of interest’ of NZ Prime Minister John Key being a shareholder in the Bank of America!

    Working for US or the U$?

    HINT – follow the dollar …….

    Our TPPA – WALK AWAY protest was filmed by Maori TV, TVNZ and TV3.

    Let’s see what makes it on tonight’s news!

  14. Sable 14

    I’m sure their well placed acolytes in the MSM will play it all down as they always do. Seems no level of grime and failure on the part of the nasty Nats is ever condemned…..

  15. Matthew Hooton 15

    Yep, a bad week for National. But it ends with another poll showing Labour’s racist attack on people with “Chinese sounding names” has failed.

    • Paul 15.1

      Spinspinspinspinspin……………………

    • Anne 15.2

      And National’s attempt to distort and misconstrue the issue (aka Hooton and Slater and their friends) have even more miserably failed.

    • Paul 15.3

      Advertising is legalized lying.
      H. G. Wells

    • Paul 15.4

      Bill Hicks on marketing and advertising.

    • Nordy 15.5

      Right on cue another apologist for the ‘shameful rabble’ of a government we have, trotting out words they don’t really understand (or is it don’t want to understand?), like ‘racist’, and ‘attack’, in yet another attempt to divert from the obvious; that this government has been exposed for what it is; completely and utterly compromised by the avarice it both supports and enables.

      The fact that MH both knows and understands the logical basis for the ‘estimation’ of ethnicity undertaken that was then tested against real data for validity (assuming of course he has read the widely available description of it), of course simply underlines how compromised he really is when it comes to his ‘comments’.

      The following quote from Rob S from his Public Address item on 23 July about the analysis behind the numbers is instructive:

      “First, and to get it out of the way, these data to not – repeat, not – 100% prove the residency status of any particular buyer. Everyone agrees on that.
      But the standard for using data in policy debates has never been: “you’ve got 100% proof at an individual level, or you’ve got nothing.” If it were, then we would have nothing pretty much all the time. Opinion polls, for example, never prove anything at the individual level, but it’s quite the nihilist who says they don’t provide any helpful information.”

    • Redbaiter 15.6

      It just shows the ideological bankruptcy on the so called NZ “right” that they so easily fall into left wing attack strategies.

      1) Racism is a Marxist construct designed to divide and weaken our society so that it is more easily deconstructed.

      2) It does not naturally follow that disagreement with any aspect of any immigration policy is racist, but that is the implication of your criticism, David Farrar’s criticism and Cameron Slater’s criticism, and you’re not only wrong you’re weak as piss for name calling rather than actually arguing the point.

      3) There are too many immigrants arriving in NZ from the PRC and its a problem related to events in the PRC. They need bolt holes for their cash and they’re choosing Western real estate as a solution.

      4) Auckland if it dropped everything it was doing and focused on housing it could maybe generate 70,000 homes in a few years. The projection is the actual numbers needed will be closer to 400,000 homes or more.

      Its just madness to expect NZ to cope with this kind of demand.

  16. Save NZ 16

    +1 – however the Nats week of hell is nothing compared to the hell they have put the NZ people through, Pike river, Serco, state houses, power assets sales, mass spying, constant deficits, removal of democracy, auckland super city, mass hikes in costs of building materials and cost of living, zero public transport, extreme cronyism, using SIS and others to gain political advantage, destruction of our planet through global warming, increased mining, decreasing water quality, etc etc

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