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Two great columns

Written By: - Date published: 1:31 pm, June 4th, 2011 - 15 comments
Categories: national, newspapers - Tags: , ,

Two great columns today.

John Armstrong has an excellent piece in the Herald, about Bill English’s agenda. The son of Treasury is still in love with their outdated ideas, although he’s happy to let Treasury publicly speak to make National appear more moderate.

Armstrong argues that English, despite protestations, has every intention to implement as many of Treasury’s ideas as he can politically get away with – less public service, flogging assets, privatisation of as much of the public sector as possible:

add all this together – asset sales, a stripping back of the core public service, and extensive contracting out of management and service delivery to the private sector. Then add the opening up of accident compensation to competition.

Then add welfare reform to cut back the number of beneficiaries and you start to get the real picture of National’s slimming of the state’s apparatus and ipso facto its role. […]

This has had little if any effect on National’s sky-high poll ratings. That may be because voters have yet to realise National’s agenda is much greater than the sum of its parts. It may be because voters are not hearing Labour’s shrill warnings.

But it is probably because English’s revolution is incremental rather than “big bang”.

Earlier this week Vernon Small had a DomPost piece about the very weak case for asset sales, so the government certainly don’t seem to have managed to take the media or the public with them on this issue – they’re just hoping the public will vote for “that nice man John Key” regardless.

.

The other great column today has Tracy Watkins following on from the Greens’ revelations about Westpac gifts to ministers. She writes about the rise of the lobbyist, and their current ability to stay hidden.

She points out that the rules in the US – so often seen as corrupt – are much stricter, and we know exactly who is lobbying whom. Lobbying gifts are banned, where ours are largely hidden in trusts or kept under the $500 mark that needs disclosure.

It’s an article that needs reading in full, so I won’t quote it. It certainly raises some scary points about how journalists are being further restricted around parliament whilst lobbyists (particularly ex-MPs) are getting ever greater access to our politicians.

Even the OIA seems powerless to see who the likes of (anti-Pharmac) Mark Unsworth, Tony O’Brien (Sky), Matthew Hooton, Mai Chen, Stephen Franks, Katherine Rich, Roger Sowry, Doug Woolerton and Barrie Saunders are lobbying, or indeed for whom they’re lobbying. Or how they’re doing it.

We need fresh laws to deal with this.

15 comments on “Two great columns ”

  1. I would say they don’t need any access, since our Ministers are all bosses with a massive stake in NZ Inc. These so-called lobbyists are dogs bodies, and go betweens not heavy hitters. The NACT pollies are proving Marx’ point that the state is a committee (cabinet) of the ruling class. They move between the boardroom and cabinet without so much as a vote. In fact David Kirk thinks that the Cabinet is one big boardroom. While he thinks that FPP serves cabinet best because it has a clear mandate for ‘reform’, I think he’s missing a big point which is that the right are ideologically a minority and its helps to parachute rightists into parliament cause they generally won’t get voted in. That’s the main reason I think the anti-MMP faction of the bosses won’t overturn MMP. Big bossiness is happy to manipulate MMP cause they can second a Rodney or a Don or a Steven into cabinet for an innings or two when they run out of true blue seats in the shires.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Definitely need more rules about who our politicians are meeting and why.

    As for Treasury? They need to be ignored until they find their way back to reality.

  3. Bucking convention, John Key is now seeking a mandate for a second-term agenda which is radical and transparent.”

    Armstrong gets it. Key (and his backers) are following the oldest – because most unexpected – burglary tactic out: Walk calmly, and in full daylight, through the front door, whistling and offering a cheery smile to passersby. Look like you’re harmless. That is the very last approach to theft people expect. (Of course, ‘hiding in plain sight’ is still hiding, given the political context.)

    The ridiculous comments to the effect that Key is ‘Mr Moderate’ and his government is centrist are just that – ridiculous.

    Perhaps the most galling aspect of this tactic is that, once the pillage is done (though, in reality it is never finished) Key can simply say, ‘Well, I told you what we’d do. You had fair warning.’ And I’m afraid that, even then, many New Zealanders will respond “you’re right John – you were being honest with us all along, It’s our fault that we now don’t like this stuff. We just didn’t understand. It’s not your fault – you’re a great guy John!”

    And off he then heads to smile his way to some even greater project of deception elsewhere …

  4. Jan 4

    The policy paper on which some of this thinking (In John Armstrong;s article) is based is the
    2010 Investment Statement of the Government of New Zealand Hon Bill English, Minister of Finance 14 December 2010 http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/2010/is/is10.pdf which claims that the value of government assets have increased fourfold in 15 years.

    “the value of the Government’s assets now more than four times the size it was in the mid-1990s (sic) and now more than double the size of borrowings and liabilities (SIC). This has led to significant growth in the Crown’s net worth from around zero (sic) in the mid-1990s to around $95 billion in 2010 (50% of Gross Domestic Product [GDP]).”

    (I thought assets and GDP were measures of different kinds – stock rather than flow – but never mind) By any objective measure the paper is misleading (conflating GDP and assets as well as comparing earning assets such as the power companies with social assets such as schools and hospitals ( if it is not arrant economic nonsense – and I am not equipped to judge) It claims that ‘greater transparency” in making investment decisions is required by understanding the value of government assets. One would have thought that investment decisions might be made by looking at the value provided by public services (rather than the value of teh underlying asset) – after all a road is a road, a hospital is a hospital and a pylon a pylon whether you ascribe them a low or a high value. Valuation of assets however does make a lot of sense however if you are aiming to divest them

    I think the document is the precursor of the budget and is intended to provide the ‘intellectual’ validation of the set of budget policies related to the $5- $7bn of proposed public asset sales whose proceeds are already banked against proposed “social spending” as well as future asset sales and public private partnerships . I wish I had seen somewhere an analysis of it somewhere and Armstrong’s article is the first that has really explained this train of thought and its likely consequences in such clear terms. Hurrah for the MSM six months after the fact! 😉

  5. Colonial Viper 5

    Yeah its high time that Treasury was broken up and sold.

    Not sure who would buy them though as they are a complete money losing liability, and private investors are only looking for worthwhile public assets to take over.

  6. Chris 6

    Maybe people just aren’t as against asset sales as labour thinks? Since we all know anecdotal evidence is the best everyone I’ve spoken too who is still planning on voting national don’t care about them. I wouldve thought by now everyone knows that is what they are planning yet there doesn’t seem to be any backlash about it no matter how hard labour try

    • bbfloyd 6.1

      so what your saying is that the morons are in control now? you seem to be “relaxed” about that. does that make you one of them?

      heartbreaking to think that there is still a significant number of people who can’t, or won’t exercise any kind of intellectual vigour when considering the ramifications of asset sales.

      being smug about that demeans you.

    • felix 6.2

      I think the results of surveys taken on the subject of asset sales which show an overwhelming disapproval by kiwis tend to outweigh your anecdote. I’m old fashioned like that.

      • Chris 6.2.1

        There is a large difference between disapproving about something And caring enough about something to change your vote about it.

        Not sure why it is moronic to disagree with how you think assets should be utilized. My opinion is that they aren’t particularly well run now so don’t see why they would change that much with privatization. Or that the government would get that much better return on holding them.

        I don’t disagree that there is a good chance I could be wrong but that doesn’t make me a moron.

  7. Afewknowthetruth 7

    The game now is the same as it has been since the first colonists arrived: extract as much wealth as possible and keep the general populace from realising what the real game is.

    International bankers have been in control of NZ society (and governments) since the 1800s, particularly since the Maori Wars were won. That state of affairs is unlikely to change in the near future.

  8. randal 8

    you on it dude. keep up the good work.

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