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The silence of the lambs

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 pm, September 4th, 2010 - 51 comments
Categories: Economy, greens, labour - Tags:

Where are the Greens and Labour on the South Canterbury Finance issue? Just looking at the sheer politics of the situation, this is something they should be all over. For Labour, this plays right into their ‘for the many, not the few’ theme (well, nominal theme). For the Greens, this is an example of the failure of unchecked international capitalism.

Incredibly, both parties snookered themselves in the opening move and have frozen up since.

The Greens’ Russel Norman said on Monday that the government should take a partial stake in SCF to prevent it collapsing. Which wold have been stupid, given what we already knew about how badly the company was being run. Buying out SCF entirely and putting it in Kiwibank’s hands might have been one thing, but being a partial shareholder in SCF would have been dumb.

Labour’s Phil Goff chose to use the SCF bailout on Tuesday to blame National for not making the economy recover faster. It was always a dumb and implausible angle. There’s no run in that line, it was never going to roll into a series of strikes on National, and it just doesn’t sound like something Goff would have genuinely believed. It sounded reactionary and opportunistic. And by trying to blame National’s economic handling, Labour has effectively said it absolves all the other players from blame.

Labour and the Greens should have started with ‘this is an enormous amount of taxpayer money. The Government needs to undertake an official investigation into how things were allowed to get into this position’. That’s a holding line while you work out the rest – the questions about why English extended the guarantee to SCF in April of this year, while his Treasury failed to kick SCF out of the scheme when it was in breach of the rules, how a few richlisters made millions off the bailout.

It’s not too late to ask these questions. And not only should they bloody well be asked in the interests of good government but any political party that wants to be the next government should be asking them.

Make no mistake, there is enormous public anger about the way the government could magic up $1.7 billion to help out its rich mates, when at the same time pleading poverty when cutting our vital public services. And there’s a lot of anger among media figures too – this is one of the few chances for Labour to get the media onside, rather than trying to bypass it.

The stage is set, the mood is perfect for being whipped into a storm of anti-National feeling. There are plenty of National voters who could be turned over this issue if Labour and Greens challenge both National’s management and the economic system underlying this disaster.

See, this is a great chance not just to make political attacks but to attack the system itself to ask why these things always end up with we (‘the many’) bailing-out the already rich (‘the few’).

With a little inspiration, Labour could argue that this shows the finance company system is broken and New Zealanders need somewhere safe to invest their money. Then, Goff could announce a policy for a Kiwi Future Fund, a publicly-owned investment vehicle that would buy New Zealand assets to keep them in Kiwi hands and give us the cpaital we need to develop, people could invest in the fund through Kiwisaver, Kiwibank, the Cullen Fund could put money in too. At a stroke, Labour will have seized the political agenda and left National looking like the party of bail-outs for its rich mates.

Will we see any of this? Or will all we hear be the silence of lambs who seem, against all logic resigned, to slaughter next year?

And don’t get me started about the pathetic response to Maurice Williamson calling Kiwis racist and the medical technicians’ strike. The first should be used to hound Williamson into the ground but all we got was a limp presser and the story didn’t even make the evening news. In the second, Labour should be laying the blame squarely at National’s feet – hell, if a sick woman in a hospital ward can do it on national TV, so can Labour.

51 comments on “The silence of the lambs ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    There’s something fishy going on with the SFC entry into and being able to stay in the GGRDI considering it’s business was, by all indications, quite dodgy and Labour and the Greens should be investigating as deeply as they can.

  2. just saying 2

    Key’s best charm offensive and msm has been unable to shut this down. NZanders have woken up. they are angry and want answers. This could be exactly what we’ve been waiting for. Labour probably doesn’t even deserve this second chance, and if they don’t use it I don’t see any alternative but to hunker down until 2015. Forget about politics, get a life. Start seriously thinking if i could stand the Aussie climate.

    Would a red-greeen bipartisan assault be too much to ask for?

    Your post is a beauty MartyG, why aren’t you on the opposition front bench?

  3. Loota 3

    Nail on the head again Marty.

    Why are we waiting, we’re all suffocating

  4. BLiP 4

    Who are the foreign investors for whom John Key bent the rules to accommodate within the agreement, when did they become involved in SCF, and how much were they paid out?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Yep, those are the questions that need answering. Another question is: How many blind trusts are involved?

  5. ak 5

    Too true Mart – the biggest gimmee lobbed up in years and the silence is ear-shatteringly deafening.

    Billions for fat-cat bailouts on top of tax cuts for the rich – just as home-help, childcare, health, et al are slashed – and both cockies and ACToids squealing “nanny state” and mouthing “Corrupt! Corrupt!”

    A perfect earthquake for the Left – but where the hell is it?

    It’s here: plaintively issuing press-releases but ignored by the totally-captured MSM on anything effectual since 2004 and buried on Scoop.

    Ignore the privately-owned MSM. It’s the enemy. Always was; but now utterly, irrevocably blatant.

    It’s down to the ‘net and the street.

    Remember Mt Albert and Mining:

    Rejoice, celebrate, learn, and ACT!

  6. Salsy 6

    The key person Labour need to push to the front on this issue is David Cunliffe. Goff cannot wade into this, he just cant compete with English and Key on finance issues.

    • Lazy Susan 6.1

      Completely agree. Cunliffe’s performance on The Nation a while ago was exemplary. Complete grasp of his subject. Clear, concise, straight answers and did not allow himself to be cornered or bullied. John Roughan, right winger from Granny, was thankfully speechless. I’ve seen Cunliffe perform several times and am always impressed.

  7. Cactus Kate 7

    Cunliffe has no balls. I even did the reading for him, posted the specific DoG’s, outlined the breaches and yes still Cunliffe has his hand up his backside in Auckland while Rome burns. Little wonder Goff isn’t getting rolled anytime soon.

  8. Jenny 8

    I have been coming to the conclusion lately, that the Labour Party are reluctant about winning in 2011. And would be happier sitting in opposition for another 3 years.

    This is probably a good strategy for Labour, because by the end of that time the National Party will be so hated that Labour will win by a Landslide and won’t have to bother talking with with third parties like the Greens or the Maori Party to make a government.

    A number of things have formed my opinion on this.

    But I might say to Labour Party supporters and members it may be all very well staying pure and sitting out the next National Party led term, but is this in the best interests of the constituency you are sworn to champion?

    • Lazy Susan 8.1

      Maybe you’re right Jenny but, judging by what they’ve done so far, give NAct another term and it will take at least a generation to undo the crap they will unload on us.

      • tea 8.1.1

        If this is the strategy- and I’ve seen no indication it isn’t- then they are no party of mine. Fight to win all the time. Who knows what damage might be done in 3 more years. Fight the issues with moral consistency and state our beliefs- don’t talk about maybe another term…

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      If that’s the case then everyone on the left will just have to vote Green. I have no issues with Labour becoming a minor party.

  9. Jenny 9

    Over at Red Alert.
    Commenting on a post on this issue by Trevor Mallard, Anne warns us of another possibility that could arise from the right of the political spectrum, if Labour continue to do nothing.

    Anne says:
    September 4. 2010 at 10:18 am
    Please Labour don’t drop the ball on this one. And don’t let Winston Peters get there before you. There are many of us who can smell the stench and with the facts starting to emerge, we expect Labour to be on the front foot – RIGHT FROM THE START.

    • john 9.1

      A comment made by someone I fully agree with is “Labour are Centrist Tossers”. They and Nact are almost like a Two-headed one party system.The same trick has been foisted on Americans for 65 years and they are paying big time now.

      • Loota 9.1.1

        You have a point, maybe this is why when someone needs to pull out a powerful Lefty quote or example from a Labour leader they have to go back 40 frakkin’ years.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1.1

          Yeah, been noticing that myself. The left truly crumpled when Labour went RWNJ in the 1980s. They’ve moved to the centre since but they’re still more right wing than left.

  10. Lazy Susan 10

    Completely agree Marty.

    Here are some questions the Opposition should be asking:

    1. Why was the scheme rolled over in April 2010 and why was “interest” included when the company was clearly in trouble?

    2. What questions were asked about the huge expansion of SCF’S loan book from the start of the scheme in November 2008?

    3.Why did the government just “hand-over” $1.7 billion when the amount of their obligations was not clear? Wouldn’t it be more usual business practice to unwind the company then decide who is obliged to pay what.

    4. Where is the $1.7 billion coming from – borrowing, cuts in public expenditure, increased taxes?

    5. Why have the government paid money to people they are not even obliged to ($20million to foreign investors)? Imagine the uproar from MSM if they paid extra money to the unemployed to stop them being a nuisance at the benefits office.

    6. Why was Kerr given preferential treatment?

    7. Who’s behind the “sharks” that are now circling the carcass?

    8. Finally, where are the skeletons? as there are bound to be some.

    There’s a stink around this matter and it crosses the political divide. Many of the right ideologically oppose the states involvement, many others will smell a big fat rat and don’t like their money being wasted.

    I do hope Labour/Greens are keeping there powder dry rather than rolling over. This issue will not go away and expect some real skeletons to show up in the run-up to the next election.

    Believe me, Winston will be all over this, it’s playing on his home ground. Didn’t issues of trust and honesty, whipped up by NAct, bite him at the last election? Revenge is sweet as they say.

    • Jared 10.1

      Kerr wasn’t specifically given preferential treatment. Torchlight had provided a loan facility to SCF, and by nature, preferential creditors considering the receivership structure, Torchlight would have been first in line under the receivership to be paid out. Remember, you are confusing the receivership and the deposit guarantee scheme. One is an incredibly regulated process to ensure creditors get paid according to their priority, the other was provided to reassure investors they wouldn’t lose their money.

      Now, you might argue there is a lack of congruence between the Retail Deposit Scheme and the Receiverships Act, but, Torchlight would have been paid out irrespective of the Retail Deposit Scheme, its how creditors are prioritised in a receivership. What the government did was utilise the Receiverships Act and paid out Torchlight so that they had clear rights to SCF’s assets. Plain and simple. Not paying Torchlight and other priority creditors OTHER than bond/debenture holders out when there was clearly the assets in the business to pay them (as they are entitled to under the Receiverships Act) would have been incredibly messy as Torchlight could have just called in their own Receivers and sold the assets off themselves in a fire sale.

      But hey, whats logical about that.

  11. Juan Manuel Santos 11

    Stop press!

    Goff has spoken out… on an issue that really doesn’t matter at all.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10671155

    • Jenny 11.1

      Well, in his defence, It was a rather shocking hat.

    • The Voice of Reason 11.2

      It may not matter to you, Juan, but it matters to me. I’d prefer my head of state to be a kiwi, not some German pensioner or her Greco/Germanic son. Bloody foreigners, coming here, putting their faces on our money. Next thing we know, they’ll be making us fight their wars for them.

      • Loota 11.2.1

        Pretty sure there are about four million kiwis out there who think that the price of petrol, meat and milk are more important than who we have minted on our coins.

        There is a new self appointed Aristocracy rising in this country which needs to be fought tooth and nail. But its not based in Buckingham Palace. Just ask the Right Honourable PM and his mates.

        captcha: million

      • Lanthanide 11.2.2

        Next thing we know, they, and the rest of their little commonwealth, will be defending us if we’re invaded from abroad.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.3

      I’m going to disagree with you there. Becoming a republic does matter but, at this moment in time, doesn’t matter quite as much as NACT giving $1.8b of taxpayer money to their rich mates.

    • Ari 11.4

      It matters, but it might not be the most pressing issue right at this moment.

  12. tc 12

    Nice work Marty, Jenny’s got it sussed….a disinterested lazy opposition who seem to be doing nothing to win back power in 2011.

    Labour have the talent but it’s being suppressed by the old guard who are enjoying their turn with the leadership titles. Carter had a point but went about it all wrong damaging the entire partys chances in the process.

    As I’ve said many times to some party faithful …..you know what it takes as the game’s changed but you persist with outdated tactics and people because that’s the Labour way….the public service of NZ politics….slow/process focused/too many factions all having their 5c worth.

    When Goff speaks he’s boring when he should be setting the place alight on any issue….FFS !!

  13. the sprout 13

    Have a listen to this interview with Goff on the matter…

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/fop/2010/09/focus_on_politics_-_finance

    Warning: It’s a depressingly lame, amateurish effort 🙁
    The nadir is when a reporter explains to Goff the Labour party’s policy on the guarantee scheme.

  14. I disagree with you Marty on this issue (I know, pretty predictable).

    Here is what Mallard posted yesterday on Red Alert. I will repeat it in full.

    At some stage an inquiry is going to have a look at the government’s actions in the Hubbard group case.

    Back in June when contrasting Hubbard and the Auckland wideboys I counselled caution until facts were known.

    I don’t want to get into too much detail while there are ongoing investigations, and hopefully even new investigations to be opened.

    and on Power :-

    I don’t think he had a real choice. Received advice. Could not ignore it in my opinion. Needed to pass regulation. Then it must be announced and he was Minister responsible. Statutory management can never be a secret.

    Bernard Hickey got into the Hubbards yesterday. He asks some fair questions.

    But the blogger who has got closest to the core issue is Cactus Kate. She points out :-

    “Bill English is incorrect (well let us face facts – teling porkies) in this interview. The taxpayer did not have to pay SCF anymore than they would have had to for Hanover or Blue Chip. SCF took deposits for and moved $700m (or 41% of total) of their lending to more risky criteria even into the the hyper-risk of mezzanine lending. They breached the guarantee and their own CEO said so.”

    It seems that English knew that SCF did not meet the criteria when its guarantee was renewed. If that is the case he is gone.

    Parliament sits this week. OIAs have been lodged. Expect to see something very soon.

    • the sprout 14.1

      Mallard putting a post on Red Alert is a thoroughly limp response Micky. It’s telling that that’s where to have to point to for evidence of a response from Labour, don’t you think?

      Someone should tell the Labour PR team about TV, newspapers and radio – they’re great for reaching a slightly larger and broader audience than the fawning few who bother reading Dead Alert.

      It’s pathetic.

      • tea 14.1.1

        If they can’t fight this, then there’s not much hope of them actually running a government

      • The Voice of Reason 14.1.2

        Yeah, sprout, the MSM are just gagging for the opportunity to publicise Labour’s position on everything, eh. Now that you’ve so succinctly nailed Labour’s failings, dya wanna tell us why the Greens are MIA?

        • the sprout 14.1.2.1

          who knows about the Greens, perhaps they’re similarly gutless or incompetent.

          i am vaguely familiar with the possibility the MSM are not especially interested in publicizing Labour’s position, but there’s one thing the MSM love more than neo-liberal policy, and that’s a ratings boosting, populist, fat cat ripping off the little guy story. especially when it has a whiff of senior politicians’ blood on it.

          there are nearly 2 billion reasons why Lab and Grn should be able to sell this story – so far there’s no evidence of either barely lifting a finger.

          here’s an angle: the same amount of money needed to rebuild our second largest city after its ravaged by a massive earthquake is being spent on English’s southland farmer mates and Key’s financial speculator mates. 2 billion for each. think that might fly in the media if either Lab or Grn could give a fcuk?

          • pollywog 14.1.2.1.1

            there are nearly 2 billion reasons why Lab and Grn should be able to sell this story – so far there’s no evidence of either barely lifting a finger.

            Whose job is it to rark up the press and write cutting soundbites ?

            Hope its not Fa’afoi…but if it is, then that explains why they’d want to move him on to the patsy role Laban vacated and get someone with some cojones in there, even if she be a female.

            I wonder if Cactus Kate would be up for a bit of moonlighting 🙂

      • Draco T Bastard 14.1.3

        Yeah, that post by Mallard would have been better as a guest post on here. Red Alert isn’t dead but I’m sure that The Standard has more readers and a broader base.

        • mickysavage 14.1.3.1

          This is a slow burner of an issue and the public response is going to get worse and worse as the details emerge. Labour cannot go for it right now, after all they set the scheme up. When the “due diligence” analysis emerges there will then be an opportunity to go on the offensive.

  15. Anne 15

    You’re right mickeysavage, but what concerns me is that Labour will still miss the boat if they continue to be too cautious. I’m not suggesting they jump in at the deep end without the relevant material at their fingertips – and that takes time – but in the meantime it’s up to them to keep the issue alive and kicking. You can be rest assured Key, English and co. will do everything in their power to bury it.

    I see some (note some) parallels here with the Winebox Affair. Interestingly, that one also rumbled on under the radar for months before the shit began to hit the fan. Indeed, it was a satirical piece in the now defunct ‘Independent’ in 1992 that first brought that matter to public attention.

  16. Red Rosa 16

    Well said MS above, this is indeed a slow burner. Rod Oram really gets stuck into Hbbard in today’s SST

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/opinion/4096745/The-harsh-truth-on-Hubbard

    and there is more background here

    http://www.lostsoulblog.com/2010/08/let-finger-pointing-begin.html

    SCF is just one part of the Hubbard house of cards, though. The statutory managers have found serious ‘shortcomings’ in the Hubbard-managed investment funds – HMF and Aorangi Securities. Investors in these are not covered by the GG and may get 50c in their $ back, or even less. It’s anyone’s guess at present, and there are hundreds of investors and serious money involved.

    And now we find something like 500 (!) registered companies owned or controlled by the Hubbards. Again, it’s anyone’s guess at present what has gone on with these. Then there are the charitable trusts……….

    It will take weeks of work by the SMs for all this to be fully examined. But the biggest political question remains -why was the GG rolled over in April, when alarm bells had been ringing publicly for months?

  17. Jenny 17

    Labour is not finished.

    If Labour come out strongly and make a stand on the things that really matter to their target constituents as well as agree to start talking to any other party that could help them form a majority to turf out the Nats.

    Even on current stats the possibility of forming a Labour led coalition in 2011 is a real possibility.

    All that is missing is the political will.

    capcha – “actions”

  18. Craig Glen Eden 18

    While I share everyones frustration, the attack on this needs to be managed well and Cunliffe will want to have all the info before he wades in.
    The msm are not exactly Labour and the Greens mates to be fair so they will probably only get one crack at getting it right. As Marty has pointed out the leaders of both parties did not do well on the first attempt, I just hope they leave this to Cunliffe to deliver, Goff needs to keep out of this.

    • just saying 18.1

      quote:”Goff needs to keep out of this”

      Remind me, why exactly is Goff leader?

      It’s a bit unheard of to hand the really big populist issues to someone else to front.

      If all else fails maybe and intensive course of acting lessons and a script might help.

      • Craig Glen Eden 18.1.1

        Goff needs to stay out of it because this is not his strong area (finance). A good leader (just saying) knows when to go to his or her team. Goff is the team captain he is not the team.

        As others have pointed out this will slowly unravel and then Goff can lob acid into the wounds created by Cunliffe and others.

        Leaders don’t have to be in the front of everything all the time. Its important that both Labour and the Greens work constructively together on this.If this opportunity is lost then the Nat’s will almost defiantly get three more years and if that happens this country is stuffed. Goff needs to show that he has a cabinet that can do the job, this strategy of Goff fronting everything has not and will not work.

        Labour and the Greens have to show they can work together and that they can govern this is just the kind of issue the opposition needed.

        • just saying 18.1.1.1

          Sorry that was a cheap shot. Just feel so damn frustrated about this.

          I agree with you about the team focussing on the matters in which they have portfolios or particular expertise. It’s just that Goff has particular powers as leader. For example it would look a bit strange if it was Cunliffe that called a press conference and demanded an independent inquiry.

          Would LOVE to see a red-green unified front on this.

  19. Jum 19

    Red Rosa,
    “Why was the GG rolled over in April, when alarm bells had been ringing publicly for months?”

    Reply: You know why…
    Land and assets. This is a wonderful way for Key to flick off our land and assets to his mates, both foreign and home-grown, while declaring with a bigger smile than usual, showing his shark teeth to their best advantage, that he’s SAVING us that money, that $400 per Kiwi, by getting a great portion back of the $1.7billion he’s given to the people who just stick it in their overseas banks along with their other billions.

    And everyone, every stupid New Zealander that will vote him back in, come 2011 unless we stop it, will think ‘what a great guy’. It makes me puke how stupid NZers are when it comes to the rich white male who turned us into serfs in our own country.

  20. KJT 20

    If it was an insurance scheme it is like offering insurance on a car after it has crashed.

  21. If people want a headline it is this:

    The amount paid to SCF financiers will be comparable to the cost of reconstructing Christchurch.

    Pretty chilling …

  22. Kleefer 22

    Well, the fact Labour set up the guarantee scheme in the first place makes it kind of hard to be holier than thou about the bailout, does it not? Hopefully it will teach them a lesson to think things through before they make rash policies… nah, doubt it.

  23. Anne 23

    You’ve gotta be a RWNJ with a pseudonym like that Kleefer. And you’ve gotta be uninformed ,stupid and ignorant to qualify as a RWNJ. Congratulations on both counts.

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