January 4, 2013
December 30, 2012
LET us go then you and me,
While the day is spread out on my BlackBerry
Planner, like a day spread out on a BlackBerry planner;
Let us go to scheduled photo opportunities,
In appropriate communities
Marginal electorates of middle class swing voters
Campaign finance fundraisers at BMW motors:
Guest spots on sports radio talk-back
Friendly breakfast TV chats
Until I’m interrupted by an annoying breaking news story . . .
Oh don’t ask, ‘Why is education such a disaster?’
Let me talk about my mate Dan Carter.
In my office officials come and go
Warning of negative gdp growth.
The tracking poll that wanders slowly down,
The popularity poll that grazes about but over time trends down
Smiles upwards when we get tough on welfare,
But answers sensible wealth creating policies with a puzzled frown,
Shies for our opponents when we try to mine the national parks,
Runs with herd-like terror from Hollywood or Wall Street,
Ducks and nuzzles the ground indifferently at public service reform,
Answers historic infrastructure projects with a sullen bleat.
And hopefully there will be time
For the public surveys and our own in-house poll,
To recover and no longer trend down;
Hopefully time, hopefully time,
For growth to reduce the number of workers on the dole;
There will be time to grow our ailing stock exchange,
We’d be halfway through the power sales already
If the Maori Council weren’t so deranged;
Time to show our economic policies are sound,
And time yet for a hundred and twenty key actions,
The Christchurch rebuild and resource extractions,
To kick in before another election rolls around.
In my office officials come and go
Warning of negative gdp growth.
And hopefully there won’t be time
To wonder ‘Is it working?’ and, ‘Is it working?’
Time to face the opposition, smirking,
And the electorate whose doubts are lurking -
(They all wonder, ‘Why aren’t things better now?’)
As if I could flick a switch, somehow
And float New Zealand on the Dow -
(They all wonder, ‘Will he stay or take his bow?’)
Do I dare
Stand for a third term?
Hopefully I can leave on a high note
And go chair a multinational finance firm.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
I’ve known the advisers, the strategists, the campaign troops,
I’ve run the goddamn country by focus groups;
I know the midnight phone call
Querying comment on tomorrow’s scoops.
So how shall I recoup?
And I have known the lies already, known them all -
The smear that we don’t care about the poor,
And that our economic strategy is a failure,
That our welfare policies are an epic stall,
A distraction from the exodus to Australia,
Our opponents are actually liars, and so much more.
And how should I recoup?
And I have known the officials already, known them all -
Officials who tell me things are slowly going to hell
(But the executives of Fulton Hogan say that things are going pretty well)
They drone about productivity growth stagnation
And the unaffordability of superannuation
Officials with gloomy projections projected on the wall.
And will I then recoup?
And how should I reply?
Shall I say, I have played golf with real wealth creators
Company directors, venture capitalists, equity fund managers
Who think things will pick up, and that I’m roughly on the right track? . . .
External circumstances are what critics should condemn
I’d have been a great PM if nothing went wrong
So the economy still slumbers, fitfully!
Twitching whenever the exchange rate rises,
Stunned after Christchurch and the Global Financial Crisis,
Inflation is low, unemployment still better than half the OECD.
Can the manufacturing industry wake without the state intervening?
Will net foreign debt go down now that the Hobbit’s started screening?
But though I have cut tax for high earners, cut corporate tax,
Streamlined the RMA to make things easier for developers,
The numbers in each fiscal forecast are consistently worse,
And in short, I am not relaxed.
And would it have been worth it, all that work,
All the speeches, the interviews, the debates,
About whether the economy is in dire straits,
Is it worth it? Am I keen,
To return to government in twenty fourteen?
Resume the treasury benches with a winning smirk
Give my speech to the throne with my trademark grin,
Promise that our policies would see some progression;
If my advisors then sit me down, looking sinister
To tell me we’re back in recession,
And Winston Peters is my new Finance Minister.
Then how would I administer?
And would it have been worth it after all,
Would it have been worthwhile,
After the teapot tapes and Kim goddam Dotcom,
After the sackings, the privacy breaches, the interminable Cabinet meetings,
The GCSB brain fades and countless press gallery briefings -
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But it as if a power-point presentation drew my thoughts in diagrams upon the screen:
Would it have been worth while
If Treasury tell me the Auckland property bubble has burst,
The most likely fiscal scenarios are the worst,
And you can’t pass budgets without New Zealand First.
I’m slightly less preferred . . . I’m slightly less preferred . . .
As Prime Minister, and my asset sales are deferred.
Do I dare to crush a union? Or reappear on the cover of Woman’s Weekly?
Maybe I’ll do Woman’s Day, and undermine collective bargaining discreetly.
I’ve heard my strategists whisper, then sigh bleakly.
I do not think they’re entirely frank with me.
I’ve seen them printing out their CVs on the office printer
Meeting with lobbyists, planning their new careers
Cashing in on their connections for a few lucrative years.
For I have twenty four more months to be comfortable about things
To smile and float cheerfully around
Til our lack of coalition partners sinks us and we drown.
December 19, 2012
You need to have watched a few sessions of Question Time over the last year to really appreciate the jaw-dropping ballsiness of National’s surprise petrol tax increase, and seen Key, English, Brownlee, Joyce, Groser and Simon Bridges splutter with dignified outrage at the suggestion that carbon emissions should be priced into the market. ‘That would lead to increased petrol costs for ordinary New Zealanders,’ they’d howl, disgusted at the opposition’s vicious indifference to the struggles of ordinary people. ‘Labour and the Greens want to hit working people the hardest,’ they crowed. ‘It would lead to across the board living increases that would cripple the fragile economic recovery!’
(If we weren’t heading into the holiday season it’d be fun to crowd-source finding the most ironic Question Time performance on this issue: I’m guessing it would come from Simon Bridges answering on behalf of Groser. The other Ministers manage to memorise their lines, Bridges tries to look self-righteous while reading off a sheet written for him by some anonymous senior staffer.)
Anyway, not unusually, everything those Ministers said all year turned out to be meaningless bullshit, and taxes will go up as of next June. This means the government can keep its election promise and restore the government’s books to surplus going into the election. That doesn’t mean much in real life: the surplus is forecast to be $66 million, the government debt is about $50 billion, so impact on the economy is non-existent. This is all about the impact on the 2014 election campaign. ‘Labour left us a decade of deficits! But now the John Key National government has put New Zealand in the black!’
That campaign slogan – or one very much like it – is literally all this new tax increase buys us. And it might not be enough. Ever since the 2010 ‘revenue neutral’ tax switch, Bill English’s job has largely consisted of dreaming up stealth tax increases to plug the enormous hole his high income and corporate tax cuts blew in the government books. I doubt this petrol tax will be the last.
December 18, 2012
Thanks again to Peter Green for the R code. Image is below, but you should really go here for the interactive SVG version.
December 15, 2012
It’s Louisa Wall. Partly for her members bill for marriage equality – although my innate selfishness makes it hard to get too excited over legislation that doesn’t benefit me directly – but mostly because her campaign on behalf of the bill consisted of meeting with MPs who were opposed to it and winning them over to her point of view. How often do we see that happen?
December 14, 2012
I’ve written a novel and it’s being published by VUP next July.
Now, I’m not threatening you guys, exactly, but no one wants this to become one of those writers’ blogs with endless updates about sales (‘Number 65 on the New Zealand bestseller list!’) or links to interviews (‘Here I am in the Jetstar in-flight magazine!’) and the easiest way to avoid this will be for Dim-Post readers to just pony-up and buy this book on pre-order when it goes on sale next year.
Jarndyce v Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce v Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce v Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce v Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.
- Charles Dickens, Bleak House
December 13, 2012
My initial take is:
Binnie: Was asked to advise Cabinet on whether he thought David Bain was innocent on the balance of probabilities. Binnie has not concluded that Bain was innocent ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ or guilty on the basis of the evidence, because – he argues – the police investigation against him was so incompetent that guilt or evidence could not be determined, and the initial prosecution should not have taken place. Due to these ‘extraordinary circumstances’ Bain can be said to be innocent in a legal sense. Binnie feels that due to actions by the New Zealand police and judiciary there has been a miscarriage of justice against David Bain and that the state should compensate Bain for this.
Fisher: Argues that Binnie wasn’t asked to determine whether there were extraordinary circumstances, or whether the justice system should pay restitution to Bain because of the way it handled the case. It asked him to weigh the evidence and determine his guilt or innocence on the balance of probabilities.
Justice Ian Binnie revealed last night that he identified the failure of the Crown to preserve evidence in the David Bain murder investigation as one of the “extraordinary circumstances” that the Cabinet should take into account in considering Mr Bain’s claim for compensation.
Neither Ms Collins nor Justice Binnie alluded to the actual evidence to which they were referring but a strong part of the Bain case has been the police investigation and destruction of evidence.
The controlled burning of the house and crime scene at Every St in Dunedin soon after Mr Bain’s parents, two sisters and brother had been killed with a .22 rifle destroyed much evidence including the footprints made by bloodied socks.
I suspect we’ll hear more of this sort of thing. Recommending a payment to Bain would be unpalatable to Collins, Minister of Mob Justice, but not – I suspect – a deal-breaker for the Cabinet. Binnie’s real crime is to criticise New Zealand’s police and judiciary – so Collins waited until the House rose for the year, and now she’ll dump the report during the silly season accompanied by a peer review highlighting any perceptible error.
December 9, 2012
Now that they’ve rid themselves of the threat of David Cunliffe, the Labour caucus has turned their sights on their real enemies: the Labour Party membership and the Greens. John Armstrong, senior Herald amanuensis ran a column yesterday consisting of a warning dictated to the Green Party by Labour’s leadership:
Now that David Shearer no longer has to worry about a knife being plunged into his back – at least not for a while – he needs to tackle another longer-running attempted putsch of a very different but equally serious kind.
Along with other colleagues, the Labour leader is getting increasingly perturbed by the ever more brazen campaign by the Greens to try to displace Labour as the major party on the centre-left.
Shearer, meanwhile, is understood to have given several senior spokespeople greater rein to criticise the Greens if they seem too far out of line with Labour’s thinking.
Essentially the Greens are the tail that is wagging too much on the end of a rather distracted and sometimes slow-moving dog.
In the end it is down to Shearer to give the Greens the occasional flick to remind them who is the senior partner in the relationship. But it is a delicate matter. Still, expect a tougher line from Labour from here on.
I doubt this struck much fear into Russel Norman’s heart. The current trend in the polls – Labour gaining, National declining, Greens holding steady, NZ First above 5% – is the best direction Labour could possibly wish for. Are they going to risk that trend and go to war with the Greens for the left-wing vote? (I guess it’s possible. When Labour sees the Greens steady at around 11% of the vote I don’t think they think ‘that’s money in the bag for a left-wing coalition’, but rather ‘That’s 250,000 votes that belong to us that the Greens have stolen.’ If Labour had that vote share they’d be neck and neck with National. So a war for the left is conceivable, but not very sensible.)
Labour’s other new front are their own members. There have been a few posts on The Standard recently about the Labour leadership trying to censor party members from commenting on blogs. And now a couple of the authors on the Standard have announced they’re retiring from the blog after pressure from the party.
My understanding of what’s happened here is that most authors on The Standard comment under pseudonyms. And they’ve commented on the Labour blog Red Alert using those same pseudonyms. Now, when you comment on Red Alert you have to provide your real email address. So these have been matched to Labour’s membership and the dissenting members have been contacted by party officials. All pretty creepy.