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So what’s going on in the National party?

Written By: - Date published: 12:01 pm, January 22nd, 2012 - 124 comments
Categories: accountability, Politics - Tags:

It seems nowadays that everybody (including me) seems to have an opinion about the Labour party. What can they do better, who’s to blame for what, what they need to stop doing etc, etc.

Weirdly there’s no such interest in the National party.

I think this is partly to do with National’s message control, partly to do with its corporatist structure but mostly to do with the fact Labour does no opposition research.

National’s message control and corporatism are interlinked – as a party they are adept at shutting down negative stories by staying on message and not providing them oxygen. In a more democratic and less hierarchical party this is a lot harder as members and MPs tend to feel more free to say their own thing publicly. In National there is strict control of messaging to the point where nearly every National party electoral campaign was being run out of Wellington HQ (and run to be as bland as possible). It is also evident in the lack of leaking from National – it used to be easy to find out what was going on in their caucus. Now nobody talks.

By comparison Labour has no message control. This is partly due to the more democratic traditions of the party but also due to the failure of Labour’s leadership team to provide coherent explanations of their policy and values (despite constantly talking about the importance of their policies and values). Add to this the fact National has a sophisticated opposition research unit and a network of proxies to disseminate its work, and it starts to become clear how the discussion is always about Labour.

The last leadership contest was a prime example of this – every man and his dog felt that it was their business and that their particular political genius was elemental to the decision made by Labour’s caucus. The Nats, in particular, took great pleasure in stirring the pot around the whole matter.

This is not to say there should be less democracy in the Labour party. More that there should be more focus on National – both from the media and the opposition. In fact it amazes me that since Don Brash left the Nats the party that has been most talked about is Labour. Despite the fact National has been the government for most of this time.

I’ve no problem with the focus on Labour’s internal politics, I think it’s good for democracy. What does concern me is that the politics and motives of the governing party, the very people who are making real and significant changes to our country, is a closed book. I don’t think that’s good for democracy at all.

124 comments on “So what’s going on in the National party?”

  1. Anne 1

    …there should be more focus on National – both from the media and the opposition.

    They both let the country down badly. It almost seemed to me that the media was scared of John Key and his corporate lackeys. The last time we saw that was during Muldoon’s reign of terror in the 1970/80s and look what happened? The country ended up on the verge of bankruptcy and paved the way for Rogernomics and Ruthanasia. Labour spent the last 3 years acting like a bunch of possums in the headlights.

  2. RedLogix 2

    You almost got the point; you mistake National for being a political party. It’s not.

    National is as you say a corporate entity; but whose sole purpose is to erect a facade of being a political party. Real parties have priciples, members, policies that get debated vigorously; while National is nothing much more than ‘a bunch of cheques flying around’.

    In other words by their very nature the internal workings of National must be kept hidden.

    • Peter 2.1

      @RedLogix: The Dominion Post is John Keys lackey, if you didn’t notice the big blue National sticker on the front before election day. Though I would really want to know which newspaper you can trust, after all both the NZ herald and the Dominion Post ran scathing editorials about ‘raising the minimum wage’, with the usual scare tactics. Though in reality (whether you have a salary or the hourly rate) most people earn much less than last year due to inflation, unless you are lucky enough to have got a pay rise this year that exceeds that of the rate of inflation.

      • muzza 2.1.1

        Fairfax media owns both the NZH and DOM, so go figure what you think you can believe!

        And while you’re there, FF own sites like Stuff.co.nz, along a bunch of provincial rags, and their online equivilants!

        • Draco T Bastard

          Fairfax media owns both the NZH and DOM…

          nope, APN owns the NZH.

          And while you’re there, FF own sites like Stuff.co.nz, along a bunch of provincial rags, and their online equivilants!

          There’s effectively a duopoly in the MSM in NZ. APN owns half, Fairfax owns the other half. The Otago Daily times is independent but has a cooperation agreement with NZH.

      • Pete George 2.1.2

        Though in reality most people earn much less than last year due to inflation

        The rate of inflation last year was 1.8% so even for those who had no increase in wages their earning power will only be a bit less, not much less.

        [if your income stays the same and inflation is two percent it’s like someone coming along and taking two dollars of every hundred you earn. No laughing matter for those on tight budgets. Especially on top of losing four dollars in every hundred the year before and two fifty the year before that. And before you say people get pay increases: the median income for Pakeha is up only 4% before inflation since 2008, for Maori it’s down 8%, and Pacific Islanders down 14%. So inflation out striping incomes does matter, although I would argue it’s more a problem with employers and the government driving down incomes then inflation at the moment. Eddie]

        • Draco T Bastard

          Talking out your arse again I see PG.


          Consumers Price Index
          Mar. 2011 1146 0.8 4.5
          Jun. 2011 1157 1.0 5.3
          Sep. 2011 1162 0.4 4.6
          Dec. 2011 1158 -0.3 1.8

          Which means a 4% CPI. And the CPI isn’t the most accurate of measures is it? Food went up quite a lot faster.

          • Pete George

            DTB – 1.8 on your chart means 1.8%

            Try adding up the quarterly moves: 0.8 + 1.0 + 0.4 – 0.3 = 1.9
            (presumably rounding accounts for the 0.1 difference).

            Food went up more than usual mid year due to shortages of some things but came back to about normal by the end of the year.

        • Colonial Viper

          The rate of inflation last year was 1.8% so even for those who had no increase in wages their earning power will only be a bit less, not much less.

          Notice how CEO pay increases always exceed inflation by several multiples. Curious eh. Bonuses for us, austerity for you.

        • The Voice of Reason

          The problem is, PG, that many non unionised Kiwis have gone without rises for 3-4 years now. Those workers have lost around 9% of their purchasing power over that period. That’s crippling our economy, particularly in the retail sector. It’s also extending the gap with Oz, where rises are annual and at least CPI for virtually all workers.

          • Pete George

            I’d be surprised if there’s many that have had no increase. I had only one year with no increase but have had Kiwisaver benefits, tax rates have reduced a bit, and mortgage rates reduced a lot so am better off now.

            One significant thing that’s slowing down our economy is less spending and more saving and debt reduction. In the short term that is a problem but as we were overspending and overborrowing it is more of a correction to excessive spending.

            • Colonial Viper

              Thanks for extrapolating your personal financial situation across most people. That was very useful. With you as a middle class homeowner/property investor benefitting from cheaper mortgages etc. its very relevant to minimum to median wage earners and beneficiaries.

            • newsense

              …let alone those who don’t get holiday pay or sick pay cos their employer has them as contractors and they’re scared to lose their jobs if they complain…

            • mik e

              Pompous git what about those who have lost their jobs and the many more that have had their hours reduced.
              The banks aren’t lending govt is saying we are saving its just more BS.
              People are paying down because they have no choice.
              Narcissistic Pompous Pete can skite about how well off he is while the rest are doing it tough.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              No, the problem is that most people aren’t bloody being paid enough to save. If we’d stop shipping all our profits to overseas investors, that would be a good start.

        • Peter

          I am more thinking in terms of not keeping up with inflation from 2008 onwards, failure to keep up with inflation one year compounds onto the next. Though it will all really depend on how great inflation is this year, its only January.

        • Pete George

          Eddie: So inflation out stripping incomes does matter

          Of course it does, I’m not arguing against that. I know the financial situation has been tough for many employees over the past few years – and it’s also been tough for many employers.

          But it’s not as simple as 4% in 2010 – that was upset by the GST increase and offset to an arguable degree by tax reductions which were on top of tax reductions initiated by Labour.

          Mortgage rates have come down significantly, from over 10% to under 6% in some cases, thaty has helped a lot of homeowners.

          And the CPI need not rule your expenditure. Mid year last year the CPI went up in large part due to fruit and vegetable shortages and much higher than normal prices. But simple adjustments like buying canned tomatoes rather than fresh tomatoes could alleviate that substantially (I mostly avoid buying summer produce in winter anyway).

          • felix

            Ah yeah, the old ‘GST inflation isn’t real inflation’ crock. Trouble is most of us actually have to pay it, Pete.

            As for fruit and veg prices, what are you arguing exactly? That the price has gone up but that doesn’t count either because you can always spend your money on something else?

            Jesus fucking christ Pete, why don’t we just apply that logic to every item in the CPI and we’ll magic away inflation altogether? Who needs fresh fruit and veges anyway?

            • Pete George

              It might be too simple a concept for a rocket scientist like you, but you can often reduce the effects of inflation by adjusting what you spend on.

              If tomatoes quadruple in price in July (and are premature tasteless globs flown in from Queensland) try buying a pumpkin from the local farmers market, or whatever vegetable is at a more reasonable price for the season, or buy a can of tomatoes or bag of frozen peas on special at the supermarket.

              Just like you can use your rocket less if rocket fuel goes up.

              • Colonial Viper

                It might be too simple a concept for a rocket scientist like you, but you can often reduce the effects of inflation by adjusting what you spend on.

                Yeah Petey, because being downgraded from steak to mince doesn’t impact your quality of life.

                Or having to bus to work an hour earlier every morning because you can’t afford to run a car any more.

                • Lanthanide

                  “Yeah Petey, because being downgraded from steak to mince doesn’t impact your quality of life.”

                  Which is actually exactly what happened in the US inflation index. They used to chart the cost of stake, but it became too expensive so they substituted it with mince (yanks call it “hamburger”), to keep the figures down. There’s been a consistent concerted effort in the US to dampen down the real inflation figures by cooking the books.

                  • nadis

                    This old urban myth. I’m surprised you are taken in by this one Lanthanide.

                    I was involved in writing a piece of research several years ago for an investment bank which looked at the changing nature of the CPI. Our conclusion – Inflation a little higher now if using the 1970’s weights and classifications, but given about half of the stuff in todays CPI didnt exist in 1970s or has significantly different weights due to changes in usage that is no surprise.

                    See here for a FAQ by the BLS which discusses the steak versus hamburger myth or the “hedonic quality adjustment”


                • Populuxe1

                  I’m surprised CV! Surely stake is bourgeois! Shouldn’t we all be eating the humble worker’s mince? What are we doing, giving steak to the poor or forcing the rich to eat mince? Make your mind up.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Dude let me mull your comments over my glass of Veuve Clicquot

                  • McFlock

                    Some bits of the cow make steak, others make mince. There will always be people who have steak and others who have mince.
                    The problem is when particular people always have steak, and others can never afford more than a mince broth.

                  • nadis

                    actually i meant 80’s not 70’s.

                    And I think the BLS has recalculated CPI as per John Williams arguments and come up with lower numbers than he gets. CPI is supposed to reflect the composition of goods and services actually being consumed – the fixed basket methodology doesnt reflect this nor does it reflect productivity gains. Also if the US really wanted to depresse CPI they could put housing back into the index.

                    In any case you can easily pull out the CPI components and look at un-weighted inflation for particular commodities, goods and services.

                    Actually the thing i like least about CPI reporting is the ex-food and energy argument – that seems to me to be inconsistent with measuring the impact on people.

                • infused

                  Mince is very healthy fyi. I live off that and chicken breasts. Steak is over rated.

              • felix

                Pete George: “It might be too simple a concept for a rocket scientist like you, but you can often reduce the effects of inflation by adjusting what you spend on.”

                Correct Pete. You have to lower your standard of living because you don’t have as much money in your pocket and what you do have buys less than it used to.

                That is precisely what we’re talking about. Glad you’ve finally got your head around it.

              • bbfloyd

                earth to “rocket scientist”….. like every other person i know, i have to buy food from a supermarket, or similar establishment…. now that isn’t remarkable in itself, but what is remarkable is that apart from the usual seasonal fluctuations in fruit & vegetable prices, there is NOTHING that hasn’t gone up in price by a minimum of 15% over the period of the national govt… many basic food items have escalated by upwards of 50%…. forcing people to choose between eating less, or buying food of vastly inferior quality and nutritional value……

                playing silly semantics with the reality that those of us who “don’t count” for this government both insults our intelligence and exposes serious flaws in your philosophical rationale…..

                in short… stop talking apologist shit and man up to the fact that your hero’s have got it badly wrong… and that the “party” you seem so proud of is no more than a useful tool to the asset strippers…. as a representative party it has utterly failed, and it’s very existence represents the depth to which our “democracy” has been corrupted…..

    • ghostwhowalksnz 2.2

      Quite right . Do we know what Fonterra is doing apart from what they say ?.

      I have noticed that even Ministers press secretaries have nthing to say in response to questions. Often they will put out a release a few days later giving their spin but without any reference to the original question. Thereafter its a blank wall .
      TV interviews all ways show a ‘nodding head’ positioned in camera view just behind the minister- who is only available for disaster stories. Its all carefully thought through to avoid any public discussions.

    • Anne 2.3

      National is as you say a corporate entity; but whose sole purpose is to erect a facade of being a political party.

      Spot on. This political party began to be bought-out by the corporate world in the late 1980s and the purchase was completed when Key became the corporate world’s anointed leader. They even financed another entity masquerading as a political party in the 1990s called ACT in an effort to hasten the takeover. The most telling evidence of this is the almost total lack of debate about policies within the party structures. Those of us who regularly post and/or comment here would know more about NAct’s policies than the vast majority of their members!

    • Horizon 2.4

      It’s a bit rich to say National aren’t transparent. They’ve been the most transparent government in New Zealand’s history regarding MP expenses and benefits. Had they maintained Labour’s regime around expenses they would all have been living a lot more comfortably.

      As to 170 thousand jobs, that is just the normal trend of job creation in the economy! No big mystery…

      There are jobs out there, but if you have nothing to offer then of course you can’t get a job, and that probably isn’t the governments fault. What is a silly idea is to throw more money at beneficaries to the point where they earn similar amounts to workers who pay their benefits and to return to 1970’s industrial employment law.

      I actually think unions have a role to play in New Zealand, I just wish they would not be so ideologically opposed to anything national breathes around.

      • Populuxe1 2.4.1

        Hmmm “It’s a bit rich to say National aren’t transparent.” – so you’re saying it was a glass teapot? Actually, it woud be nice if you could provide some examples of this “transparency” – I’m having a hard time recalling any.

      • Colonial Viper 2.4.2

        It’s a bit rich to say National aren’t transparent. They’ve been the most transparent government in New Zealand’s history regarding MP expenses and benefits.

        Fuck that, tell me about the delay in announcing the Crafar farms decision, the Teapot tapes scandal, West Coast Dennistan plains decision, the details of the winning Chinese train contract, the Wong’s business dealings in China on government time, the non release of geotechnical data to do with Christchurch, the delay in dealing with the Rena, why SCF was allowed to resign and all the big money speculators looked after, the sweetheart loan to Mediaworks etc. etc. etc.

  3. Fotran 3


    I think you will find that the rate of inflation was 1.3% for the year. Well below what Treasury and other experts expected.

  4. randal 4

    the fact of the matter is that Labour has nothing to hide but that nashnil being the party of privilege and greed is afraid of any exposure and prefers to do things in secret.
    that is their nature. they know their greed and venality has to be shielded.
    that is why this blog is so important because at the moment it seems to be the only organ that holds the tories and kweewee up to any sort of scrutiny whatsoever.

  5. nadis 5

    The point of this story is what?

    Of course there is no interest in Nationals internal politics – its not the public train wreck Labour’s has been over the last 3 years. You have about nine different messages coming out of Labour at any time. If Shearer imposes some discipline on the undisciplined (Mallard, Fenton, Moroney, Curran) then the stories will soon dry up. Oh and gets some positive polling to kill off the challenge angles.

    Rewind back a few years and swap Labour for national. You had an ill-disciplined National under English and Brash getting all the nagging stories, and a disciplined Labour Under Helen Clark getting few if any, except if a particular issue blows up. As happens now with National (Pansy Wong, Richard Worth, the expense fiddles, Bill English and the cleaner etc etc)

    • muzza 5.1

      So what you are in essence saying is that , the public is having the wool pulled over its eyes either way.. Well done you are working it out!

    • You’re assuming the stories don’t actually generate or at least contribute to Labour’s problems- to some degree, in politics perception is reality.

      Because we’re not focusing on National and criticising their faults, they’re assumed to be squeaky clean. That’s not the case, but they’ve got us so damn busy putting out fires, both in our own lives and politically, that so many can’t make the time to point out what a miserable failure this government has been on its promises, how it is far more corrupt and scandalous than the Clark government, and essentially how it fails on all its own measures.

  6. Blue 6

    National doesn’t really have any internal politics these days. Because John Key is still so popular, no one in that party is going to rock the boat. The scars of having spent nine years in Opposition have only just faded and they’ll cling to anything that keeps them in power.

    The ones who are discontented by National’s softly-softly approach are keeping their heads down or leaving the party (like Simon Power).

    When Key’s popularity takes a sustained hit, then you’ll see some interesting stuff played out.

    • newsense 6.1

      softly softly??

      if that is the way they are treading so people can’t hear them perhaps, using urgency and candyfloss to hide change. Didn’t we have a massive roll back in civil liberties last term?

    • They ditched softly softly while the media was off covering Labour. Now it’s just a matter of time before they get called on it- the question is, will that catch on or not.

  7. Brett 7

    National seems to be running pretty smoothly, so not a lot of column inches there.
    Labour on the other hand transitioning from the old guard to the new, worst election result in 50 years, competing factions, backstabbing etc …
    If I was a reporter I know which party I would be focusing on.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Who cares what the reporters are focussing on, its what the editors decide to print.

      And of course National looks like its smooth sailing, the media are not printing anything to do with the NATs. Even when Worth, Wong, etc were going down, they pursued it as minimally as they could.

  8. james 111 8

    I believe there is way more democracy in the National Party than there ever was in the Labour Governemnt.
    Under Helen Clark, and Heather Simpson now that was a ditctatorship in action for all to see. Even to the point of trying to stop radio hosts saying anything negative about Labour, trying to kill free speech.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      Even to the point of trying to stop radio hosts saying anything negative about Labour, trying to kill free speech.

      You are going to have to explain that one. I’m sure you have something in mind, care to share it with us?

      • james 111 8.1.1

        Yes Red Radion Host commentator in Timaru got rung from HQ and asked to stop going on about the Motor cade ordeal. Belive it was by H2

        • McFlock

          Evenif your recollectionof events was shared by the rest of the universe (which I doubt but can’t check because you haven’t provided a shred of supporting evidence), did Labour then cut funding to the radio commentator, like they have with TVNZ7? Or do anything comparable to trying to get NZOA to refuse funding to any documentary that seeks to diseminate accurate research during an election?

        • If they did, they suck and should be criticised for that. It’s incredibly anti-democratic to lean on the media.

          That said, if you believe there’s a problem with leaning on the media, you better have a much larger problem with John Key’s government, which has bullied media into retracting stories, de-funded public broadcasting they don’t like, and is now trying to de-fund political documentaries based on when they air.

    • muzza 8.2

      Well done James you are also seeing that the two parties are as fucked as eachother!

      Most sensible observtion you have made! Keep at it

    • Spratwax 8.3

      Does ‘way more democracy in the National Party’ include a complete media blackout for every member of the National Party except John Key, in the run up to the election? Is the message that secretive/ controversial /confusing that it can only be delivered through one man? The evidence is in the MSM. The unprecedented monopoly on comments from John Key, on the most broad range of subjects, makes a mockery of ‘democracy in the National Party’, and is probably partly to blame on the right-wing MSM.

  9. james 111 9

    Interesting to see the first Roy Morgan Poll out has the Right at around 60.5% and the left around 39.5% . The big winners in the left of course the Greens sitting 14%, and Labour still languishing at 27.5%.

    Cant help but think that the Greens are the New up and coming of the Left, and we are seeing the demise & cremation of the Labour Party as they have departed from their roots to satisfy the fringe elements in the Party.

    • RedLogix 9.1

      Actual Roy Morgan result here

      Given that James has a history of not being able to add or multiply simple numbers, it’s not surprising he’s pretty hopeless at transposing them as well:

      Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll, the first since the 2011 New Zealand Election shows support for Prime Minister John Key’s National-led Government is 49.5% (down 0.9% since the Election). Support for Key’s National Party is 47% (down 0.3% since the Election), the Maori Party 1.5% (up 0.1%), ACT NZ 0.5% (down 0.6%), and United Future 0.5% (down 0.1%).

      Support for Opposition Parties is at 50.5% (up 0.9%) — Labour Party 27.5% (unchanged), Greens 14.5% (up 3.4%), New Zealand First 5% (down 1.6%), Mana Party 1% (unchanged) and Others 2.5% (down 0.9%).

      • james 111 9.1.1

        You must be ecstatic with Labour sitting around 27.5%

        Just goes to show when the left keeps its mouth shut then they pick up votes. Shame is when they come out with Capital Gains Tax, Raising Pesnsion age, Pay working for families to those on the benifit you lose votes. Does that mean that the left may well look better than it sounds?
        Trouble is for the Left you have included Winstons figures ,and he realises that many of his supporters dont like you any more, and that also you tried to claim his policies such as Gold card, kids free doctors visits as your own. He didnt like that to much. So I believe you have to take that 5% out of your figures Red

        • RedLogix

          Still stuck in FPP mode are we? You might want to google up the term ‘coalition’; apparently it’s all the thing these days.

          As a Green party member I’m quite content to see a potential coalition Opposition party vote higher than the Government’s.

          • james 111

            But Winston says he doesnt support either he will vote on a policy by policy basis so cant include him as opposistion. You have to subtract him from the left, just as the right could never include,and would never want to

            • RedLogix

              So where did you get that 60.5% figure support for the right from?

              But Winston says he doesnt support either he will vote on a policy by policy basis so cant include him as opposistion.

              Well given you have just ruled NZ1 out of any potential coalition you cannot count him on the right either. Besides Winston has a solid history of working with Labour, and while his past relationship with the Greens was problematic… both parties have changed somewhat since then.

              And crucially when you step back from the personalities; Labour, Greens and NZ1 have more policy in common than any of them do with NACT.

              • Colonial Viper

                IIRC NZ1 had a no asset sales policy as well as a minimum wage of $15/hr. That’s good enough for me.

              • If you saw Winston on the Maori TV debate, it was actually very hard to tell his policy positions from the Greens’ and the Maori Party’s. Essentially, all of the small parties in parliament (well, except ACT) have a lot more in common with the Greens than they do with Labour.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Actually no, I’m subtracting the “others”, as the Left is willing to work with Winston, and the right isn’t.

              If we consider the Maori Party a swing party, (which we should) then we have 48.5% vs 48%, or pretty much a dead heat if NZF decides to support a left government. Roy Morgan tends to be more accurate with higher turnout, so whether it’s leaning leftwards depends on whether the turnout is as badly depressed next term as it was this term.

    • mac1 9.2

      ‘cant”- yep. Got it one.

  10. chris73 10

    Well first thing I’d do is sort out the posts on red alert and other social media, maybe run the posts through someone reaswonably neutral to do some vetting?

    When you’ve got MPs running their mouths off it does make it easy for the media to zero in on them…

    • IrishBill 10.1

      Alternatively you could say red alert offers an insight into how those MPs think and it’s shame we don’t get the same access to the Nats thoughts.

      • mik e 10.1.1

        They Don’t have any they get their orders from the mother land

      • chris73 10.1.2

        The problem is for Labour it does offer an insight and an easy target for the media (thinking Mallard, Curran and Fenton)

        I’d imagine the results would be the same if National had a similar blog up and running

  11. randal 11

    ah. the bondholders.

  12. Mark 12

    When mince is on special I buy mince – with a little bit of effort and some cheap ingredients i make awesome bolognaise, delicious burgers, nasty nachos.. all good cheap tasty meals, and I teach my daughters how to do it too.
    When steak is on special I buy steak.. amazing how delicious, nutritious, cheap and fun a casserole is.
    $20 worth of seeds and a little bit of sweat can grow $1000 worth of vegies, easy, fun and great to do with young uns.
    My power bills – lower than ever. I spent $12 on some line and pegs and hang it out – also means I don’t get so much mould on the ceiling, which isn’t that hard to clean off and keep under control with a bit of effort to open windows, air the house etc.
    Sometimes when the wallet is tight I spend a whole $5 on fresh mussels and make a wicked feed.
    All this and 50hrs a week as a contractor, still plenty of time to get free library books to read to my girls, go to free council or govt sponsored activities, playgrounds etc.
    I manage to pay my tax, child support etc, and choose not to blow my money on fines, KFC, gadgets, SKY, pokies, horses etc.
    These options are available to anyone, someone please tell me again why the State (ie you & me) should be stealing from the sensible and productive to subsidise those that can but won’t get their shit together, instead of focusing on those that are genuinely needy.

    • felix 12.1

      Those are all sensible practices Mark, good for you.

      Also, wages are going backwards under National (as promised) and prices are going up.

    • RedLogix 12.2

      These options are available to anyone, someone please tell me again why the State (ie you & me) should be stealing from the sensible and productive to subsidise those that can but won’t get their shit together.

      What you are expressing is a very common frustration. The biggest flaw of our current tax and wage system is that if you are on a median wage or lower (ie the bottom 50%) your disposable income is not a lot different to most beneficiaries. In other words you are the working poor.

      Quite naturally you look over the fence at people who are not working, for one of many possible reasons, and you can see that you’re life is not a lot better than theirs, even though you’re slogging away 30-40hrs a week at some crap paying job. It’s not an inspiring view.

      Benefits in this country are pretty miserable, and so is the median wage. Of course guess who it suits best to have low paid workers and low paid beneficiaries at each others throats?

      But otherwise as felix says… you’re doing all the smart things. Given the realities of peak-oil we’re all going to have to learn how to be competently poor soon enough.

      • I’ve been tossing around the idea that a definition of rich could be the ability to provide food for yourself and your family, directly (hence the rich would be identifiable by the dirt under their finger nails). Productive gardens are an essential part of being “competently poor”, and for the last ten years I’ve been trying to teach myself how to feed myself and my family, just in case (and for the sense of satisfaction and because it reduces the grocery bill). I’ve recently discovered that I haven’t completed the cycle, yet, because I don’t know how to collect and preserve seed for all the plants I grow. I suspect there are a lot of details to being competently poor, and most of us are incapable.

        • mac1

          Interestingly we had this debate in early 2011.

          thestandard.org.nz/key-poverty-is-your-fault/#comment-299013 and comments thereabouts on the subject of food growing.

    • McFlock 12.3

      Because there is no demonstrated relationship between productivity and income. 
      Because not everybody’s expenses are identical.
      Because the alternative is to just let people die.

    • Colonial Viper 12.4

      These options are available to anyone, someone please tell me again why the State (ie you & me) should be stealing from the sensible and productive to subsidise those that can but won’t get their shit together, instead of focusing on those that are genuinely needy.

      The state is not stealing from you; the state is requiring you payback the investment in education, healthcare, roads, infrastructure, law and order, power generation etc. they made on your behalf and which allow you to operate successfully to make an income as a contractor.

      • Skeptic to the max 12.4.1

        “The state is not stealing from you; the state is requiring you payback the investment in education, healthcare, roads, infrastructure, law and order, power generation etc” Don’t you think CV in knowing that we work our arses off longer than most OECD countries’ workers for pissy wages, then pay our taxes, and our taxes again and again in ‘stealth taxes’; that the Government is stealing from the middle and lower income workers when agencies such as schools and doctors then also charge an unaffordable arm and a leg for many to participate in the “rights” of a first world country? WINZ paid out $6 million in expenses for 38,000 beneficiary families to pay costs for children to go to school this last financial year. What did the WORKING poor get to put their kids in school? FA !! And secondly, why should we pay twice for resources that by far the workers already contributed to and purchased for these same resources you mentioned to now be sold and or privatised?

        • RedLogix

          WINZ paid out $6 million in expenses for 38,000 beneficary families to pay costs for children to go to school this finacial year. What did the WORKING poor get to put their kids in school? FA !!

          Again… whose interests are being served when you perpetuate the idea that poorly paid workers and even more poorly paid beneficiaries should be at each other’s throats?

          A mental picture of the lords and masters being amused as two starving, snarling dogs fight over meagre scraps tossed from the high table somehow comes to mind…

        • Populuxe1

          However we are hardly a normal OECD country – for one thing our economy is no where near diversified enough (ie we are primarily dependent on primary product and tourism) which would certainly alleviate a lot of those problems. The working poor got Working for Families, same as the unemployed and many others, except you at least are working and have a source of income, the unemployed don’t have a job. Why do you feel so entitled that you feel you should be rewarded for being employed?

        • just saying

          All WINZ extras above the basic benefit rates, such as the accomm supplement, disability etc. are also available to the working poor. At higher rates if memory serves. If your family is living below the official breadline, maybe you should get down to your WINZ office and find out what they can do to help you.

          You can also go to their website to find out.

          I have a sneaking suspicion that your apparent concern for the working poor is just a means to getting the boot into beneficiaries, and that your income is significantly above that of the poor.
          I could be wrong. Just a suspicion.

        • Colonial Viper

          Hey Skeptic maybe you should fight for a minimum wage of $15/hr instead of suggesting that more be taken from those with the least.

          As RL suggests – the Barons of the land would love nothing more than for the beggars and the serfs to turn against each another, leaving themselves free to continue to rape both the land and its peoples unimpeded.

          Don’t fall for it mate, you’d be a chump if you do.

        • felix

          The trouble is this bit, Skeptic

          to subsidise those that can but won’t get their shit together, instead of focusing on those that are genuinely needy.

          We don’t “subsidise those that can but won’t get their shit together”, we subsidise the businesses – often foreign owned – who can but won’t pay a living wage…

          …instead of focusing on those that are genuinely needy.

        • stever

          How about (1) keeping track of how many employees in each company claim state aid to make-up their income—WFF, tax allowances, WINZ help etc., and how much they claim; (2) name and shame those companies by publishing their names and amounts.

          This might encourage them to pay better rather than keep profits—and it would at least let people see where the “bludgers” really are.

          • LynW

            Excellent suggestion. These are helping subsidise employers after all. I have sometimes wondered about an open list of student allowance recipients for there is no shame in genuine uptake of this benefit. What about the transparency of publically listing taxes paid? I imagine this would be a real eye opener.

      • foreign waka 12.4.2

        “The state is not stealing from you; the state is requiring you payback the investment in education, healthcare, roads, infrastructure, law and order, power generation etc. they made on your behalf and which allow you to operate successfully to make an income as a contractor.” I think what the fallacy on the thinking here is that there has been no statement or policy that has been implying or implementing anything resembling a request for paying forward tax. The only time that anyone is doing this is when a company pays provisional tax, and this is only once. Therefore, with every dollar I earn I pay tax Pay As You Earn and hence by the end of each week I have paid my due’s truly. This, I am positive about cannot be said from many that earn many times over what a average person earns. There are families who are in perpetual stress because of the financial situation and for anybody to say that this is “natural justice”, the “invisible hand” will distribute wealth fairly and the economic model was never fully implemented is delusional. Fact is that 1% of the people have 75% of wealth. This is not natural justice – this is greed and the one without conscience will win.
        Q: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”
        Thomas Jefferson

    • just saying 12.5

      Years ago when I was too sick to work at my fulltime job I was on a sickness benefit. I was able to do some work so I joined a community intiative clearing scrub at a local graveyard for a few hours a three days a week with a team of hardworking “unemployed” people. Every day some executive types would come jogging past us in their lunch hour. One day one guy yelled out “the unemployed should be doing this”. We yelled back “we are the unemployed”. They avoided us on their jogging route after that.

      Point is, it’s just too damn easy to make hurtful assumptions especially when we are feeling hard done by.

      We each received $5 travel expenses. There was one guy who came every day and cycled 15 kms to get there with really munted and painful knees. Apart from wanting to work for his self-respect and to maintain work readiness (for work that didn’t actually exist for him) his family relied on that extra $15 – they wouldn’t give him the $5 for the extra two days.

      Another thing. I recently moved home and set up a vege garden. Despite having a full quota of tools, a functional wormfarm and compost, and various other useful gardening stuff, and collecting some of my manures from freebies on the roadside etc., it cost me an absoute fortune to get it up and running and I wouldn’t have been able to afford to if I had been dirt poor. Six months later I’m only just reaping the rewards. Just enjoyed some new potatoes and fresh brocolli tonight . Heaven, but in some ways still a bit of a luxury. The garden won’t start paying for itself for quite a while yet.

  13. Mark 13

    Thanks for the comments, but no answers.
    Why is it that beneficiaries, with time on their hands, cannot involve themselves in money saving, healthy lifestyle options, and grow connections with heir children, community, school etc?
    And why are those who profess to be so concerned with the welfare of the underdog not propagating the message and the garden with them?
    And why the hell has our country come to this.. if we don’t want to be “screwed by the elite and kept in poverty” we should be taking control of our resources, earning, rehabilitating, employing etc.
    We have troughers left & right, we have workers left & right, we have bashers left & right..
    Is the Nats “looking after their mates” any different from Labour doing it, or The Greens? Does anyone here, or on any blog, ever think they could spend a bit of that time volunteering, or doing charity work, or helping someone less fortunate?
    FFS, we live in Paradise, everyone can feed themselves, I feel thankful that if I lost my job the support is there at a level that makes me determined to get another one,
    That’s enough from me, someone’s paying me tomorrow and I need to get some sleep and make sure I keep my side of the bargain.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      Why is it that beneficiaries, with time on their hands, cannot involve themselves in money saving, healthy lifestyle options, and grow connections with heir children, community, school etc?
      And why are those who profess to be so concerned with the welfare of the underdog not propagating the message and the garden with them?

      I agree completely.

      Adult education programmes and night classes could be used to impart these skills and knowledge on to people struggling to make ends meet.

      Except National killed them.

      By the way how do you justify a social safety net set at 20% below subsistence levels? Do you think that people do better in job interviews when they are hungry and when they are being threatened with their power being cut off?

      Further you better give us some answers on what to do with hundereds of thousands of working poor in this country. Anyone on $13/hr, or $14/hr falls into this category IMO.

    • Descendant Of Smith 13.2

      Most do and therein lies your problem with lumping all beneficiaries in with a minority – many of whom have a psychiatric, physical or intellectual disability.

      Do you not get that most people do not stay on benefit for long and that when there are more jobs benefit numbers reduce?

      Do you not get that most people while they are on benefit manage albiet with difficulty and do go in and out of work?

      Do you not understand that many beneficiaries also do part-time work as well as voluntary work?

      Do you simply accept what you are told by your right wing masters and don’t do any actual analysis or thinking for yourself?

      Do you think so poorly of your fellow New Zealanders that you consider a large proportion of them in the terms you describe?

      Do you think castigating or encouraging and supporting them will work better?

      Do you ever consider you are only one car / bike / trip on the gutter / fall off a ladder accident away from living on an Invalid’s benefit?

      Do you not think that adequate support to live is better than the current benefit rates?

      Do you not think that wages should at least allow someone to raise a family without state intervention? Do you not think that wages at a decent level might encourage people to stay in their relationships and not succumb to financial pressure and separate?

      Do you not think that men piss off from their disabled children and leave the wives to raise them?

      Do you not consider that something has fundamentally changed in NZ in the last 30 years as wages went from 60% of GDP to 40% with profit going from 40% to 60%?

    • Populuxe1 13.3

      Why is it that beneficiaries, with time on their hands, cannot involve themselves in money saving, healthy lifestyle options, and grow connections with heir children, community, school etc?

      Because they haven’t got time on their hands – they’re jumping through hoops trying to find work, having pointless WINZ seminars, or quite probably doing some kind of under-the-table work to get by. And how do you know they aren’t spending time with their children, doing volunteer work etc?

      And why are those who profess to be so concerned with the welfare of the underdog not propagating the message and the garden with them?

      Well, if they live in a city, which is more than likely given that’s where most of the available jobs are, they are likely renting, and affordable flats most often have little or no space to grow any meaningful vegetables in.

      And why the hell has our country come to this.. if we don’t want to be “screwed by the elite and kept in poverty” we should be taking control of our resources, earning, rehabilitating, employing etc.
      We have troughers left & right, we have workers left & right, we have bashers left & right..


      Is the Nats “looking after their mates” any different from Labour doing it, or The Greens? Does anyone here, or on any blog, ever think they could spend a bit of that time volunteering, or doing charity work, or helping someone less fortunate?

      Well, you have no idea what I or anyone else here does in their spare time. Assuming they have spare time. And while at times this blog (and others) may seem a bit of a bitch-fest in an echo chamber, it is still a voluntary project (as I understand it) and provides an essential service for venting, bashing around ideas, debate, and education. I’m constantly revising my opinions thanks to this site.

      FFS, we live in Paradise, everyone can feed themselves, I feel thankful that if I lost my job the support is there at a level that makes me determined to get another one,

      No, we don’t live in paradise – we live on planet earth. Not everyone in NZ can feed themselves, or if they can it’s just barely. And WINZ are bloody hopeless.

    • just saying 13.4

      And why are those who profess to be so concerned with the welfare of the underdog not propagating the message and the garden with them?

      I’m involved in exactly this in my community.
      Again with the assumptions.

    • LynW 13.5

      All brilliant responses to Mark’s questions. Thanks CV, DOS, P & js.

  14. Skeptic to the max 14

    If we looked at transperency of National Policies, today the creation of 170,000 jobs is underway??? ( read as cynicism). Does anyone know what this is about?  The Sunday Star times today through a recruiting agency called Jacksonstone is advertising for Senior Start up Opportunities, For ” our client who is a newly established government organisation tasked with the responsibility of delivering a clear and measurable social outcome of significant, visible benefit to NZ’s communities.” …. eight opportunities exist.

    It then goes on to advertise four of those positions- Yes under this new SLASH  and ‘trim’ services Government, it advertises for FOUR Managers, yet states that this new [secret squirrel] “organisation is small, busy and highly focused…”

    Yes, before we have even heard of this new G.O. ( the advertising never even mentions a name) ..we have even before a top CEO appointment too…already on offer an OPERATIONAL POLICY MANAGER, A PROVIDER MANAGER, an ASSET MANAGER  and then a FUNDS MANAGER.

    Amongst all the usual BS vague, jargon eg. “…requires a firm grasp of the issues which may impede a stakeholder’s ability to perform its core responsibilities and a natural sense of how to get the best out of working relationships.”  and in others, oxymoronic phrases such as “…apply this in a government, socially focused context.” ( laughing hysterically by now….); key words such as ‘understanding supply of land and buildings’, land development, ” take hard decisions”, “funds process… and funds management, develop methods for channelling any surplus stock to meet demand” one now begins to wonder what is this new Government organisation? Any guesses? Is it a new top-heavy, bureaucratic, obscenely highly paid “Ministry of Henchmen”? Was National’s billboards of 170,000 jobs misread….perhaps they meant jobs to lose?
    Ah well, that’s to be 8 new jobs….just 169 992 to come.

  15. Mark 15

    Colonial Viper

    Growing our own food has been part of the human psyche for so long I imagine it is part of our DNA, as is protecting children and issuing no more than we can support. I don’t recall these classes being part of the Adult Education that the Nats killed off, nor am I convinced that they should have been – I would love to know what actions Posters here recommend or are involved in to help those in need. Bunnings, Mitre 10 and any good garden center will happily give advice on these things, as will Energy retailers on making savings.
    The last 2 big renewable energy projects in NZ were killed off by opponents, along with hundreds of jobs.Hopefully the resources sector with it’s huge benefits to NZ will get a proper debate.
    I don’t and can’t justify the level of any social safety net more than that anyone can provide according to their surplus (financially, intellectually, timewise), however as we profess to be a society there are obligations on everyone.
    IMHO there is resentment at both ends (and certainly in between) of the socio economic spectrum, however I fail to see “tax the rich” or “beat the poor” as reasonable solutions.
    It will probably come down to the middle classes/earners to pull things together, however for this there will need to be some ideological honesty from both sides.
    Again,I believe we live in a Paradise where effort, honesty, diligence, and humanity are the only answers, and everyone has a reasonable opportunity to climb the ladder. To attempt to persuade the less fortunate that they don’t is unwise and dangerous (if not treasonous) IMO.

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      Did you just try and justify National’s cancelling adult education for the poor and unemployed? So you don’t take the upskilling of these people seriously, even after you complained about the low life skills level that you have observed?

      You’re as false as the sky is green.

    • felix 15.2

      “and everyone has a reasonable opportunity to climb the ladder”

      What are you basing this on, Mark? Think it through. If everyone “climbed the ladder” how would society function?

      How would the economy function with no-one left to work in the shops, pick up the rubbish, serve the drinks, clean the toilets, fix the roads, drive the buses etc etc because they’ve all “climbed the ladder”?

      This is a serious practical question, and if you don’t have an answer to it then you need to face up to the fact that in our current system there will always be a large group of people at the bottom of the “ladder”, regardless of whether individual people can move “up” it or not.

      Because someone needs to do those jobs, and in our current system those jobs don’t pay enough to live on without the state intervention that bothers you so much.

    • Colonial Viper 15.3

      Again,I believe we live in a Paradise where effort, honesty, diligence, and humanity are the only answers, and everyone has a reasonable opportunity to climb the ladder.

      Its a paradise if you’re earning over $40K pa. So for about half of NZers. For everyone else, making ends meet is tough.

      As for climbing the ladder – remind Bennett not to keep pulling the ladder up behind her – a National specialty.

    • Draco T Bastard 15.4

      Again,I believe we live in a Paradise where effort, honesty, diligence, and humanity are the only answers, and everyone has a reasonable opportunity to climb the ladder.

      Your belief, like that of most RWNJs, doesn’t match reality. John Key promised to lower wages so that profit (a dead weight loss) could go up for the owners. But this has another side – those people receiving those lower wages have to work harder and harder and their still going backwards. No amount of hard work is going to make things better for them.

  16. McFlock 16

    Again,I believe we live in a Paradise where effort, honesty, diligence, and humanity are the only answers, and everyone has a reasonable opportunity to climb the ladder. To attempt to persuade the less fortunate that they don’t is unwise and dangerous (if not treasonous) IMO.
    By screwing the education system and making it user pays, by setting benefits at pthetic levels, by kicking the poor and working poor in all the little ways the country does – that is equivalent to cutting rungs off the ladder. If you don’t recognise that, you’ll never be persuaded that there is any need for a social welfare system.

    • felix 16.1


      I feel thankful that if I lost my job the support is there at a level that makes me determined to get another one

      You seem to be saying that the entire welfare system should be run to suit your specific needs rather than the whole of society’s needs.

      It’s good that you’re determined to have a job. Great. But seeing as how there are more people than jobs, not everyone is going to achieve that.

      Do you get this? If every single unemployed person spent 12 hours a day walking the streets and knocking on doors looking for work, there still wouldn’t be enough jobs for them, and not through any fault of their own.

      You’ve acknowledged that support levels are deliberately low, 20% less than enough to eat a basic, healthy nutritious diet to be precise, yet you surely also acknowledge that there will always be people without jobs in the current system.

      What’s your solution to that?

  17. Colonial Viper 17

    I should say that the part of it that Mark has identified is that very many NZers will not tolerate their tax money going to people who are not seen to be helping themselves.

    Put another way, amongst large parts of the voting population there remains a strong belief in the deserving poor vs the undeserving poor.

    Of course, National identified this characteristic early on and leverage it extremely effectively.

    • Tiger Mountain 17.1

      Oh well my blog holiday is over, Mark’s sanctimonious bennie bashing is not to be taken at all seriously imo unless he supports increased union rights to help move the ‘working poor’ into the category of the working ‘reasonably well paid’ with chances for regular increases through collective bargaining.

    • mac1 17.2

      CV, I think you are right in your analysis of the undeserving poor versus the deserving.

      For a person who is not well off, struggling with employment or scared to be out of work, then it would be disheartening to believe that unemployment is a capricious thing and that a person might be out of work through no fault of their own but because it is tight out there. It would be easier to believe in terms of personal hope that the lack of a job is through the unemployed person’s own fault, lack or defect.

      There is also a bit of ‘holier than thou’ in some attitudes towards the unemployed and beneficiary grouping as well as a bit on envy and a whole heap of blame. These are easier to cope with than understanding that employment is often, mostly, whatever qualifier you want, nothing to do with the person but with matters outside of personal control.

      I understand this as an over sixty ex-teacher who is seeking any work at the moment.

      • happynz 17.2.1


        These are easier to cope with than understanding that employment is often, mostly, whatever qualifier you want, nothing to do with the person but with matters outside of personal control.

        I understand this as an over sixty ex-teacher who is seeking any work at the moment.

        I understand completely about things happening outside one’s personal control.

        The earthquakes have put me out of a job as my income depended on foreign students coming here to Christchurch to study. I got my redundancy notice via email on New Year’s Eve. I haven’t yet applied for any benefit as the prospect of dealing with WINZ makes me queasy.

        My wife, who works as a sewing machinist, fortunately is still bringing in a paycheck, but NZ$540/week isn’t much to live on. Shit, she’s highly skilled at what she does (funny how New Zealand Immigration Service considers sewing unskilled although most people can’t do it) and she’s been at it for about ten years and she’s still just getting over the minimum wage.

        I’m off over the ditch in the next couple of weeks to see what’s shaking over there. A quick look through the employment websites show that my wife could easily double her income by getting in the rag trade in Australia. As for me, I’m in that middle-aged territory where job prospects get increasingly fewer and fewer. Looking at many of the bus drivers here in Christchurch it seems as if the bus companies have hired on a lot of old dudes who are desperately holding on until they are of a pensionable age. Now, let’s see, I better get busy getting a passenger endorsement on my licence.

  18. randal 18

    its no fun being a winner if there are no losers.
    nashnil think they are winners so they love to kick losers to make themsleves feel good.
    crummy I know but thats the nashnil way.

  19. foreign waka 19

    Surely it it not a surprise that the National Party is the outward representative of all NZ people who can be classed as between very well off to rich and thus the “union” of the same. Unfortunately, neither Mr Kay or Mr English are truly running anything – just look at the asset sales. If this party would represent the people of NZ would this go ahead as it currently does? I just hope the the members have watched some or any discussions from Davos. The worst outcome that no country wants is not inflation and unbalanced books but deflation and mass unemployment. Whispers are abound of a scenario worse than the 30’s. So buckle up, it will be a wild ride.

  20. foreign waka 20

    Sorry, should be Mr Key.

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  • Mycoplasma bovis eradication reaches two year milestone in good shape
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  • New payment to support Kiwis through COVID
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  • PGF reset helps regional economies
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  • Government exempts some home improvements from costly consents
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  • Concern at introduction of national security legislation for Hong Kong
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  • Adult kakī/black stilt numbers soar
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  • Waikato-Tainui settlement story launched on 25th anniversary of Treaty signing
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  • Taita College to benefit from $32 million school redevelopment
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  • Redeployment for workers in hard-hit regions
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  • $35m to build financial resilience for New Zealanders
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    5 days ago
  • New District Court Judge appointed
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  • $206 million investment in upgrades at Ohakea Air Force Base
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  • Review of CAA organisational culture released
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  • New Board appointed at Stats NZ
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  • New Principal Environment Judge
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  • Digital connectivity boost for urban marae
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  • Govt increases assistance to drought-stricken Hawke’s Bay farmers
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  • Investment in New Zealand’s history
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  • Driving prompt payments to small businesses
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    1 week ago
  • Rotorua tourist icon to be safeguarded
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  • $14.7m for jobs training and education
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  • Is it time to further recognise those who serve in our military?
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  • Paving the way for a fully qualified early learning workforce
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  • Sport Recovery Package announced
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  • Major boost in support for caregivers and children
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  • Great Walks recovery on track for summer
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  • Māori – Government partnership gives whānau a new housing deal
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  • Keeping New Zealanders Safe In The Water
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  • Legal framework for COVID-19 Alert Level referred to select committee
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    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand condemns shocking attacks on hospital and funeral in Afghanistan
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  • $62 million package to support families through the Family Court
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    2 weeks ago
  • Tailored help supports new type of job seeker – report
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  • A modern approach to night classes
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  • Christchurch Call makes significant progress
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  • Christchurch Call: One year Anniversary
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  • Budget 2020: Jobs and opportunities for the primary sector
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  • New registration system for forestry advisers and log traders
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  • Finance Minister’s Budget 2020 Budget Speech
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