The Jackal: February 2020

27 Feb 2020

A Talley of NZ First's secret donations

Peter Talley - fishing industry mogul
I really don’t envy Jacinda Ardern’s position as Prime Minister of New Zealand sometimes. She’s probably got the hardest job in the country. Not only does she have to ensure her own MPs are behaving properly, she has to negotiate with Winston Peters and other NZ First MPs who seem to be dragging the Coalition Government into disrepute.

The NZ First Foundation’s funding scandal for instance, which is currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, is making the entire Government look bad! This latest controversy involves, but is probably not limited to, NZ First being caught red handed accepting secret donations, via their foundation, from one of New Zealand's largest food production and supply groups, Talley’s.

On Tuesday, RNZ reported:

Concerns over secret fisheries donations to NZ First Foundation 
One of the country's biggest fishing companies, Talley's, and its managing director donated nearly $27,000 to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party. 
The foundation received $26,950 from seafood giant Talley's and from managing director Sir Peter Talley between 2017 and 2019, according to records viewed by RNZ.

First off, let’s make something absolutely clear. There is nothing materially different between the NZ First Foundation and the NZ First political party. They should be treated as the same organisation in the eyes of the law.

It received the money from Talley's in four amounts - all of which were below the threshold for public disclosure and so have not been publicly revealed until now. 
Greenpeace was concerned by the donations and believed the New Zealand First Party had too much sway over fishing policy and the party was too close to the industry. 
Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to review key fishing policy decisions, which he said were favourable to the seafood industry, in light of the donation revelations.

Russel Norman isn’t wrong. Key fishing policy decisions should be reviewed in light of the industry making secret donations.

While the rest of us recreational fisherfolk are lucky to catch anything these days, large fishing companies like Talley’s have been allowed to plunder the ocean, taking what most would consider undersized fish in numbers that mean fishing stocks are badly depleted. Most of these fish, including the pick of the catch, are exported at prices most of us Kiwis cannot afford here at home.

On 4 April, 2019, Talley's deposited $2500 into the foundation bank account. The next day Peter Talley personally made a $15,000 donation - one cent under the level at which donations are made public. 
Talley's followed that up with a "fast deposit" of $2000 on 29 July, 2019. 
Peter Talley refused to comment when contacted by RNZ.

It’s no wonder Talley refused to comment. He has effectively been caught out making secret donations to ensure that the interests of his private business trump those of recreational fisherfolk. I mean it's not as if Talley can buy another knighthood.

There’s also the issue of the video surveillance cameras that were meant to monitor workers on commercial fishing vessels. In 2016, 80% of them weren’t working and there’s been no substantial improvement reported, apart from 28 more cameras to safeguard Maui dolphins, since the Government changed in 2017.

Winston Peters - NZ First leader

Peters claiming that he knew nothing doesn't wash when there's now clear evidence that NZ First accepted backhanders. There’s simply no reasonable explanation concerning Talley’s splitting up numerous donations to the NZ First Foundation (who is essentially NZ First) other than to avoid public and official scrutiny.

Joining the dots between The NZ First Foundation receiving secret donations from Talley’s and NZ First favouring their business model is a very simple exercise. It’s literally a straight line that resoundingly shows a corrupt practice and usurpation of our political donations system.

It’s for that reason alone Winston Peters needs to stop playing the fool and answer the mainstream medias questions. Because if he doesn’t NZ First will be judged harshly by the public even if they’re found not guilty in a court of law.

UPDATE: Today, Stuff reported a longer list of secret donors to the NZ First Foundation/NZ First Party.

26 Feb 2020

Hannah Tamaki can’t dance

I must say that it’s at loggerheads with the inclusive and free society we want to create in New Zealand that one of our largest media outlets, MediaWorks, would promote Hannah Tamaki and allow her to perform on their show, Dancing With The Stars.

Hannah Tamaki and her husband Brian are after all well-known bigoted evangelists who gained international media attention when they launched a hateful "They are not us" anti-Muslim campaign just after the Christchurch mosque massacre.

Brian and Hannah Tamaki - Cult leaders

There was always going to be a huge public outcry against her appearance, which was of course a not so subtle acceptance of the intolerance the Tamaki’s stand for.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Destiny Church's Hannah Tamaki axed from Dancing with the Stars 
Destiny Church's Hannah Tamaki will not appear on reality show Dancing with the Stars, MediaWorks has confirmed. 
"Our announcement for this year's Dancing with the Stars cast is scheduled for the end of March, however we are taking the unusual step to confirm Hannah Tamaki will not be part of that lineup," a MediaWorks spokesperson said. 
"It was originally planned for Hannah to take part in the show. We now recognise this was a mistake and we apologise. 
"We have seen a very strong reaction, some of which has been extreme and concerning and MediaWorks does not condone bullying. We would be failing in our duty of care to everyone if we continued as planned.

All the comments in my feeds have been entirely justified…so I’m really not sure why MediaWorks is blaming their decision to axe Hannah on bullying! Clearly people speaking out against a cult leader being normalised isn’t bullying!

You can bet your bottom dollar that the Tamaki’s would have used the platform and Hannah’s increased profile to further their religious and political goals. They would have surreptitiously used the increased attention to promote and peddle more hate speech against minorities in the hope of attracting support for their deluded causes.

There’s no question that cutting the blatant homophobe, Hannah Tamaki, from Dancing With The Stars was the right thing to do. Hopefully this is the start of other news outlets also deplatforming similar hate speech merchants as well, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

25 Feb 2020

Attention seeking Simon

It seems we can’t even get through a week these days without the National Party's leader, Simon Bridges, making some sort of silly announcement about a policy that doesn’t actually exist.

Usually concerning Bridges’ gut instinct and the undoing of whatever the Government has recently announced, National’s reactionary opinions and uncosted policy announcements are scant on details and often don’t make much sense from an economic let alone political standpoint.

However every once in a while Bridges really outdoes himself.

Yesterday, RNZ reported:

National considers reciprocal deportations for Australians 
Opposition leader Simon Bridges says a National government will look at amending the law to allow Australians convicted of serious crimes in New Zealand to be deported.

Doesn't Bridges know that Australians convicted of crimes here can already be deported?

Bridges said, if elected, National would explore a policy based on amendments to Australia's Migration Act in 2014 which allows for people to have their visas cancelled on character grounds. 
He said, legally, the Australia government can deport Kiwi criminals and New Zealand needs to look into a reciprocal policy. 
"While Jacinda Ardern has labelled this issue as corrosive to our relationship with Australia, I don't agree," he said in a statement.

With the biased mainstream medias help, National is relying on people not digging any further than easily digestible little sound bites to gain the attention they clearly don’t deserve.

The reciprocal deportation idea for instance, where the difference between the two countries rules is in reality very minimal, has provided Simon with a platform to pretend to be tough on crime. Leaving Kiwis in New Zealand after they've been law abiding citizens for 10 years seems only fair and in my opinion we shouldn’t go changing our laws just because Australia refuses to change theirs. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right.

So this is obviously just another ploy to gain the medias attention to add to the growing list of all the other National Party's empty bravado and hollow promises.

Here’s another recent clanger that Bridges received widespread criticism for.

On Friday, Newshub reported:

Good news for Simon Bridges - his big tax idea is already happening 
And then he declared: "People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar." 
Incredibly, simply by making that point clear, he managed to travel back in time and reset the rates of marginal and effective tax rates, and fortunately for several years now nobody has had to pay anything like that level of tax.

So Bridges can’t even get National’s big tax announcement right and has become a joke!

The opposition leaders' bumbling is causing National to flounder on topics they usually dominate on like law and order and tax reform. With nothing more than his own anecdotal evidence, Simon Bridges is failing to convince voters that his ideas are sound and therefore worth supporting.

Let’s take a look at another brain-fart from last month.

On Jan 29, RNZ reported:

Simon Bridges to announce potential coalition partners 'soon' 
Asked whether he would be giving the Epsom seat to ACT's David Seymour or anyone else from another party, Bridges again repeated he would be making an announcement. 
"As I say we'll make an announcement soon, I said we'll do that in election year because I think New Zealanders do require certainty but patience is a virtue and today's not the day." 
Pressed further about when that would be, he said: 'Soon my friend, soon.'

Does there have to be an announcement that National would work with the Act Party if they have the numbers? Or has Bridges realised that making an announcement about something everybody already knows makes him look like a damn fool?

Unfortunately for the media they also get egg on their faces every time they play along with Simon’s attention seeking. Perhaps in the future they might like to distance themselves a bit to gain some objectivity, because running off to Simon Bridges to get his hot take on every single issue is becoming extremely tiresome!

24 Feb 2020

NZ First undermines the Coalition

You’ve really got to wonder what the NZ First Party was thinking and drinking last Friday? Not only did they hamstring the Greens by halting one of their main environmental policies, the electric vehicle fee-bate scheme, a policy that the public was led to believe was a done deal…but they also had the audacity to brag about it online.

It doesn't make much sense to brag about stopping a policy that the Government you're a part of proposed. It makes less sense to do what the opposing team wanted and then criticise them for it. Sort of like doing a victory lap after scoring an own goal.

The Green Party should be spitting tacks at Winston Peters right now, for ignoring his obligations to his political partners and more importantly the environment. Campaigning to undermine your political opponents is all well and good in election year, unless there’s a coalition agreement that specifically forbids it.

With the SFO's investigation into the NZ First Foundation's dodgy donations and the shenanigans over journalists being photographed and then those photos being leaked to attack blogger Cameron Slater's new website, NZ First is the weak link currently destabilising the Coalition Government. So what are Labour and the Greens going to do about it?

On Friday, RNZ reported:

NZ First axes Government's 'feebate' electric vehicle subsidy plan, while Greens vow to take the policy to the election 
The Government's headline policy to cut the price of electric vehicles by up to $8000 has stalled in first gear after NZ First ministers halted it. 
The policy had two parts: a Clean Car Discount, or "feebate" which would subsidise the cost of cleaner vehicles by making polluting vehicles cost more and a Clean Car Standard, which was designed to encourage importers to import cars with better emissions standards. 
Green co-leader James Shaw said if NZ First ultimately decided to block the policy, his party would take it to the election.

At least Labour and the Greens are still honouring their coalition agreements. But it would be good to hear James Shaw get a bit more outspoken instead of just relying on another election to rectify the political problem that NZ First has become. In the meantime the effects of Climate Change, which is apparently this generations nuclear free moment, are getting exponentially worse.

Don’t take my or the scientists word for it though. Just look at the evidence from across the ditch where Australia’s unprecedented bushfires are the costliest ever, the polar caps melting with Antartica hitting its highest ever temperature of 20.75ºC in February this year and closer to home where most of New Zealand is caught in the grip of another severe drought.

Winston Peters - Leader of the NZ First Party
These things are not normal people.

However according to NZ First the Climate Change emergency knocking on our door is something you can ignore or worse yet play bipartisan politics over.

Sure, being a part of the Coalition Government is all about compromise. But that principle doesn’t hold much water when the compromise involves putting our children’s futures at risk.

This is a bad move by NZ First on numerous levels.

Firstly there is a limited (in both senses of the word) pool of people who’re climate change deniers and clearly National and Act already have this market cornered. Secondly Winston Peters looks like a backstabber by reneging on a policy that he most assuredly agreed to implement. Thirdly it makes New Zealand look like a backwards nation compared to the rest of the world and fourthly it does nothing to help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, which is required if we want to continue being a major producer and exporter of food. The agriculture industry will simply die without water.

So what the bloody hell was Winston Peters thinking?

22 Feb 2020

Political disunity will cost the election

Winston Peters - Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the NZ First Party

We all know that politics can be pretty messy at times. Just look at the Dirty Politics saga in New Zealand, the misgovernment during the Australian bushfires or the recent Trump impeachment debacle in the US. In a macabre sort of way it's what makes politics so fascinating!

It’s amazing how the public reacts to certain controversies. Take the National Party’s ongoing scandal concerning secret donations from prominent Chinese businessmen for instance. The latest Colmar Brunton poll illogically puts National with the Act Party edging ahead and able to form the next Government.

Simon Bridges, who is deeply implicated in the donations fraud, has amazingly gone into double digits as preferred PM for the first time. A whopping 11% of the population now thinks he’s OK. Perhaps this has something to do with him never criticising National's only friend David Seymour, even when the Act Party accepts donations from far-right extremists who want to blow up New Zealand mosques.

Paula Bennett - National Party MP
If the political polling is to be believed, the corruption case hasn’t taken any wind out of National’s sails at all. But what might is senior National MPs taking the limelight from and upstaging the so-called leader of the opposition, Simon Bridges.

After the former National Party Chief Whip, Jami-Lee Ross, was officially revealed as one of the four people charged in the National Party's $100,000 donations fraud case before the courts, Paula Bennett and Judith Collins didn't even bat an eye before going into super spin mode to actively attack Jacinda Ardern for not standing Winston Peters down over the SFO's investigation into the NZ First Foundation. The hypocrisy of National Party MPs was astonishing!

Distracted and put under pressure, Bridges isn’t performing at his best for obvious reasons either. After Bennett upstaged his keynote speech, Collins had to clarify his statements concerning National, if elected, cancelling the planned increases to the minimum wage, which led to some raising questions about who exactly is leading the National Party?

With this sort of public backstabbing going on and the SFO donations fraud case hanging ominously over Bridges' head, you’ve got to wonder if a pre-election change of National Party leadership is on the cards? In terms of who might take over, it’s a two horse race between Bennett and Collins with Christopher Luxton nowhere to be seen.

However it’s not just National’s usually private infighting that’s causing public political ructions. NZ First has decided to undermine the Greens by cancelling the electric vehicle fee-bate scheme, a policy the Greens had campaigned on that was also strongly promoted by Labour. Thankful for the disunity, National MPs even congratulated NZ First’s ostensible betrayal of their coalition partners.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

NZ First axes Government's 'feebate' electric vehicle subsidy plan, while Greens vow to take the policy to the election 
It is understood this measure was weighed up by the NZ First caucus and it decided such a policy needed to go to the electorate. 
"We can confirm NZ First are holding up the rollout of policy that would mean cheaper electric and hybrid cars for New Zealanders," Shaw said. 

So a misleading headline. Holding up or going to the electorate isn't exactly axing a policy.

During the consultation it came under intense scrutiny from the National Party, which launched an aggressive online ad campaign, labelling the policy a "car tax". Complaints were made against the ads, some of which were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority.
NZ First was lobbied by rural industries that it would have a regressive impact. 

Perhaps Winston views the position of coalition partner as a competition and undermining the Greens, who let’s face it have little in common with NZ First, is worthwhile in the long run even though it damages their common goal of keeping National out.

The Greens haven’t had a great time getting their environmental policies, some of which are part of their coalition agreement, over the line. In 2018 they also looked ineffectual after Labour gave oil drilling companies more leniency on the conditions of their expiring drilling permits, effectively nullifying the Government’s previous anti-exploration stance.

Has Labour also been lobbied by vested interests and perhaps browbeaten into changing it’s mind by National’s numerous and dishonest attack ads regarding the fee-bate scheme? Perhaps they simply don’t want to forgo the considerable revenue stream that petrol vehicles generate for the Government?

Hopefully there will be some clarification about where everybody stands on this important policy issue. Either way, it isn’t a good look for the Government’s Coalition partners to be ignoring their agreements and squabbling about already announced policies just seven months out from a general election.

21 Feb 2020

Simon Bridges contradicts Stats NZ

It’s amazing just how many attack ads $100,000 buys you these days. The National Party has really been going to town, with their latest propaganda campaign making a number of questionable and blatantly false assertions, one being that poverty has worsened under the Labour led Government.

The National Party's claim that poverty has increased by 12,000 people came as a huge surprise; being that it was made just days after the Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, informed us that 46,000 Kiwis had been lifted out of poverty last year.

So who's telling the truth...Simon Bridges or Grant Robertson?

On Tuesday, the Minister of Finance reported:

Kiwis better off under Coalition Government 

New Zealanders are increasingly better off under this Government as wages rise and families have more disposable income, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says. 
Stats NZ reported today that average household disposable incomes after housing costs rose 4.9% in 2019. This was the highest rise in four years and came as Stats NZ said average housing costs were unchanged over the year, while wages rose. 
Today’s data also showed: 
46,000 people were lifted out of poverty in 2019 based on moving above the measure of 50% of disposable income after housing costs.
The median household disposable income after housing costs has risen 10% over the past two years. In 2017, this measure had fallen 1.8%.

46,000 Kiwis better off is a damn good indication that the Coalition Government is getting things done.

National's opposition to the Government's achievements however, including their numerous attack adverts paid for by secret donations, are terribly misleading.

The problem with National’s latest attack advert, which was authorised by Simon Bridges, is that it’s plain wrong! If you read the barely legible fine print they also reference the Household Income and Housing Cost Statistics for the year to June 2019, which shows that the number of people in the low-income bracket actually declined from 18.6% to 17.5% in 2019.

It takes some serious mental gymnastics to argue that poverty under the referenced data* has increased under the Coalition Government.

So either Simon Bridges simply doesn’t understand that a smaller percentage in the low-income indicator bracket is a good thing, or National is straight up lying!

The only way you would get to the 12,000 more people in poverty figure (11,500 to be exact) is if you compared 2016 to 2017, which is a shift of 0.3% of the working population. However the data is from June each year, so we’re talking about comparing National in 2016 and 2017 with only 3 months of a Labour led Government in 2017.

Surely Bridges wouldn’t be stupid enough to count and compare what are effectively two sets of data under a National Government showing that poverty increased? Talk about an own goal.

National is clearly terribly desperate for things to attack the Government over and have perhaps gone a bit crazy! Nobody in their right mind would argue that 3 months is enough time for a new Government to effect significant administrative change to reduce poverty.

Under the Coalition Government the unemployment rate has dropped to an eleven year low and the average wage reached an all time high of $32.83 per hour in the fourth quarter of 2019. This is significant because wage increases affect the median wage. Even the MBIE understands (PDF) that the minimum wage increasing also helps people earning above that level as relative wage rates between different roles are addressed and also increase.

With more people being engaged in low paid employment and the average wage increasing significantly, we should see further reductions in the low-income poverty measure. We should also see a reduction of poverty through increased benefit payments, which the Coalition Government has tied to wage growth.

Perhaps Simon Bridges might like to actually try doing his job as opposition leader for once instead of continuously misleading the public? Otherwise all this clasping at straws and lying just looks like sour grapes from a political Party that's clearly not fit to govern.

*The percentage of people living in households that have an equivalised disposable income after housing cost of less than 50% of median household equivalised disposable income after housing costs.

20 Feb 2020

Jami-Lee Ross - National Party fall guy

Former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross

It comes as no surprise that Jami-Lee Ross has been named as one of the defendants in the X2 $100,000 National Party donations case currently before the courts. Click bait journalists who were chaffing at the bit to discredit the former senior whip had already breached his name suppression numerous times.

Also knowing that he was one of the four defendants in the Serious Fraud Office prosecution, National MP’s and right wing propagandists had been working overtime to spin Ross as some sort of boogeyman who apparently never had anything to do with the National Party at all.

The problem with the right wings dishonest spin is that if Simon Bridges et al actually had clean hands, they would be thanking Ross for trying to clean house. Instead Ross is being extensively defamed and vilified for having the courage to speak out about corruption at the highest levels of the National Party.

Thankfully the whistle-blower now has the chance to publicly defend himself.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

Jami-Lee Ross among four charged in National Party SFO case

Ex-National MP Jami-Lee Ross has been named as one of the four charged in the National Party court case. 
The other three people are businessmen Yikun Zhang, Shijia Zheng, and Hengjia Zheng. All four had their name suppression lifted on Wednesday. 
The case concerns two $100,000 donations to the National Party that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) alleges were broken up into smaller chunks to get under disclosure thresholds.

Ross is effectively accused of being the National Party's bagman for a split up $100,000 donation that Simon Bridges organised and then took control of once it was paid into the National Party's Botany electorate account.

In a statement, Ross maintained his innocence and said he had not sought name suppression. 
He said he had been painted as a "scape goat" and said it was "outrageous" he was being charged but could not comment at great length while the matter was before the courts. 
"I have never been involved in any deception to do with donations," Ross said. 
"It is clear that I am now being painted as a scape goat for the donation deception that the National Party, not me, benefited from." 
"I felt that I needed to expose the concerns that I had about the donations in 2019 that had been offered to Mr Bridges, in person, at an event that I was not in attendance at."

Clearly the corrupt National Party leadership would prefer that Ross hadn't spoken out about the fraudulent donations. However those of us who value honest representatives who don’t go around selling political positions to the highest bidder are thankful that he did.

Simon Bridges better pray that Zhang Yikun and Colin Zheng don’t spill the beans in Court. It would be terrible for National’s election campaign if, let’s say, there was a recording of Bridges discussing with the donors about how they should transfer the money to the National Party. Even without that smoking gun, Bridges is clearly implicated.

Here’s a small excerpt of a recorded conversation between Bridges and Ross who were discussing how one of the $100,000 secret donations should be handled.

JLR: Donations can only be raised two ways – party donation or candidate donation. Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements – sorry, IT MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS WHERE IT’S UNDER THE PARTICULAR DISCLOSURE LEVEL BECAUSE THEY’RE A BIG ASSOCIATION AND THERE’S MULTIPLE PEOPLE AND MULTIPLE PEOPLE MAKE DONATIONS.

Here Jami-Lee Ross informs Simon Bridges about how the donation was split up into smaller amounts to evade disclosure presumably in accordance with some sort of direction from the National Party.

JLR: So that’s all fine, but if it was a candidate donation it’s different. So making them party donations is the way to do it. Legally, though, if they’re party donations they’re kind of under Greg’s name as the party secretary, so –
SB: So we need to tell them (meaning Greg Hamilton and Peter Goodfellow), I get that. I get that. I’m going to tell him – I think he’ll accept it, I just need to explain to him what it is I want it for. Uh, unless I get him to come along to, unless I get him to – LEAVE IT WITH ME.

At this point Simon Bridges assumes responsibility for how the undeclared $100,000 donation is to be handled.

I might talk to McClay as well; see what he’s got up his sleeve. Cause Peter is going to be at this meeting with me in Wellington, that’s all. If I then brought him after that – good work though man, that’s a lot of money.

Just in case you’re wondering, Peter Goodfellow is the President and Greg Hamilton is the General Manager of the National Party.

From that conversation it certainly appears that Simon Bridges colluded and is complicit in the fraud Ross is being accused of. From organising at least one of the $100,000 donations, discussing how it should be handled and then failing to notify the proper authorities even though he knew the money needed to be declared, the leader of the Opposition is donkey deep in the alleged crimes.

Obviously there’s no reason for the donors to split the money up unless they were asked to do so. Even if that person was Ross, he was clearly acting on orders from Simon Bridges, who is after all the guy calling the shots in the National Party.

According to the SFO:

‘The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem whereby the 2018 donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000, and transferred into the bank accounts of eight different people, before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party’.

The law is pretty specific about people who intentionally encourage and/or facilitate a crime, as Simon Bridges appears to have done with at least one of the secret $100,000 donations to the National Party.

Parties to the commission of offences 
66 Parties to offences
(1) Every one is a party to and guilty of an offence who—
(a) actually commits the offence; or
(b) does or omits an act for the purpose of aiding any person to commit the offence; or
(c) abets any person in the commission of the offence; or
(d) incites, counsels, or procures any person to commit the offence.
Where 2 or more persons form a common intention to prosecute any unlawful purpose, and to assist each other therein, each of them is a party to every offence committed by any one of them in the prosecution of the common purpose if the commission of that offence was known to be a probable consequence of the prosecution of the common purpose.

Ironically this is also known as the Law of Parties.

It’s yet to be seen whether the opposition leader has the same Teflon ability to weather political storms like John Key did. I doubt he does, but that will largely be determined by the mainstream media who is presently showing more interest in a journalist being photographed than Simon Bridges’ role in these fraudulent National Party donations.

19 Feb 2020

Mike Hosking contradicts Stats NZ

If you follow politics in New Zealand you've likely noticed that the right wing have been going on and on about the Coalition Government failing to reduce poverty. In fact they’ve been incessantly claiming, in the absence of any conclusive data, that poverty has been getting worse.

Yesterday, NewstalkZB reported:

Mike Hosking: Attacking 'the rich' won't help Labour's anti-poverty pledge 
The numbers simply don’t lie, and the government can’t have it both ways. They can’t argue how well we are doing economically, which we are not any longer, sadly, and then fail to explain why every social indicator they have has exploded. 
They promised to tackle child poverty - they haven’t. 

Unfortunately for the deluded Mike Hosking Statistics NZ also reported yesterday that the number of people living in poverty, along with numerous other social indicators, improved under the Coalition Government.

Four and a half hours before Hosking published his ignorant rant the Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, reported:

Kiwis better off under Coalition Government 
Stats NZ reported today that average household disposable incomes after housing costs rose 4.9% in 2019. This was the highest rise in four years and came as Stats NZ said average housing costs were unchanged over the year, while wages rose. 
Today’s data also showed: 
  • 46,000 people were lifted out of poverty in 2019 based on moving above the measure of 50% of disposable income after housing costs.
  • The median household disposable income after housing costs has risen 10% over the past two years. In 2017, this measure had fallen 1.8%.

The National Party used to claim that there wasn’t a way to measure the number of people living in poverty. John Key even said that it was easier to count rodents than kids in poverty. But as soon as the right wing lost the 2017 election they and their propagandist mates wouldn’t shut up about it.

Now they will do their best to ignore these statistics clearly showing that the Coalition Government is delivering on their promises. Things like increasing the minimum wage, less unemployment (particularly for Maori) and providing increased hardship assistance to unemployed people are just a few of the changes helping to reduce poverty in New Zealand. There is of course a lot more that can be done, but 46,000 Kiwis lifted out of poverty in just one year is a damn good start.

The audacity of the right wing however to blatantly lie about poverty increasing, when it has in fact reduced significantly, clearly shows that they’re untrustworthy. You simply cannot believe a single word they say, especially old fools like Mike bloody Hosking.

18 Feb 2020

Another fraudulent $100K National Party donation

So the Serious Fraud Office has another secret $100,050 National Party donation before the Courts in a major scandal that looks set to quash any chances Simon Bridges had of winning the 2020 election.

Yesterday, Newsroom reported:

The Serious Fraud Office prosecution of four people over donations to the National Party involves not one but two $100,000 donations - in June 2017 and June 2018 
Court charging documents released to the media by order of Auckland District Court Judge Edwin Paul today show that three of the four defendants - whose names are suppressed ahead of a hearing next week - each face two joint charges of deception over a sum of $100,000 donated to National in 2017 and $100,050 donated to the party in 2018. The maximum penalty if convicted on the charge is seven years' imprisonment. 
The fourth person is charged jointly with the others only over the second $100,050 donation - but also faces one charge of providing misleading information to the SFO.

Of course misleading investigators is also an offence with the maximum penalty imprisonment for one year or a fine not exceeding $15,000.

The SFO describes the offending over the donations in these words: "The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem whereby the ... donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000 and transferred into bank accounts of eight different people before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party."
For the fourth person's charge of misleading the SFO, the charging document says: "In the course of complying with a requirement ... of the Serious Fraud Act 1990 supplied information knowing it was false or misleading in a material particular." 
The SFO says of that charge that this defendant told investigators a $100,000 sum transferred to their account was a deposit for a building on another person's property - when the money had been intended as a donation to the National Party. Further, in 2019 the defendant created, signed and back-dated a contract to that end, when no real contract for that work existed. The office alleges the made-up contract copied wording from an unrelated contract.

Under the Crimes Act a person convicted of document falsification is liable to imprisonment for a term of up to 5 years or to a maximum fine of $200,000.

However the real kicker here is the charge documentation which indicates that the people being prosecuted were simply following the directions of the current National Party leader, Simon Bridges.

Here’s exactly what Bridges said while talking with Jami-Lee Ross about the secret $100,000 donation from Zhang Yikun.

Jami-Lee Ross: The money’s fine sitting there in the Botany account. I don’t know what your arrangement is with Goodfellow or not, that’s all. 
Simon Bridges: So we need to tell them, I get that. I get that. I’m going to tell him – I think he’ll accept it, I just need to explain to him what it is I want it for.

Apparently Bridges wanted the secret $100,000 to pay for “some more attack ads” on the Government. As a side note, the National Party recently lost an appeal to the Advertising Standards Authority over a Facebook ad that had been ruled misleading.

Uh, unless I get him to come along to, unless I get him to – leave it with me, I might talk to McClay as well, see what he’s got up his sleeve. Cause Peter is going to be at this meeting with me in Wellington, that’s all. If I then brought him after that – good work though man, that’s a lot of money.

So there you have it...Bridges said he would talk to Peter Goodfellow, the President of the National Party, about how best to handle the secret $100,000 donation from Zhang Yikun, a wealthy Chinese businessman who was led to believe that he was paying for another Chinese MP to be instated in the National Party.

However what the other $100,050 hidden donation was paying for is at this stage anybody’s guess? In the absence of Simon Bridges coming clean, we're left to ponder about what exactly another large and secret payment to the National Party was actually purchasing?

There are some clues though. On Q+A last Sunday, Bridges had a disastrous interview where he let slip that if elected National would remove the foreign buyers ban that limits foreigners purchasing property in New Zealand. Perhaps this sort of policy change, which would obviously favour Chinese property investors who have substantial financial backing from their Government, is what the donor purchased with such a large sum of money?

Bridges removing this ban doesn’t make much political sense otherwise. In fact such a change would obviously worsen the housing crisis, a problematic issue that the National Party has been at pains to target in their numerous attack ads against the Labour led Government.

The fact that the unscrupulous National Party once again tried to hide a large donation means it was likely provided to pay for something that the voting public wouldn't accept or in the very least view with distaste. Why else would you attempt to hide such vast amount of money from public scrutiny? Why else would you mislead the SFO about it?

Simon Bridges really should be questioned thoroughly by our mainstream media about this, because he is ultimately responsible. As opposition leader he cannot distance himself from major fraudulent activity in the National Party that appears to be undertaken with his knowledge and consent.

The democratic country of New Zealand, which is apparently the least corrupt in the world, needs to make sure that elected officials act in the best interest of all citizens, not just those who can afford large and secret donations. Public officials being bought by the highest bidder isn’t an acceptable part of our political system, which must be changed to ensure that dishonest politicians who make policy for cash are removed from positions of power quickly and effectively.

Clearly Simon Bridges was directly involved in how at least one of the secret $100K donations were handled. The National Party should therefore be getting ready for a leadership change; otherwise they again risk trying to back somebody who is completely lacking in any semblance of credibility.

15 Feb 2020

NZ mainstream media promotes racism

After cross-examination Jones knew he would lose the defamation case he took against film maker Renae Maihi. That’s why he threw in the towel. The weight of evidence was clearly against the old tycoon with the defense presenting fifty articles to confirm Jones’ racist views.

Being unable to harass somebody into silence with the High Court must be pretty demoralising for a bully used to getting his own way. But it also highlights another far more pressing issue; New Zealand’s mainstream media promotes racism.

The defense successfully argued that Jones’ views expressed in various interviews and articles, particularly his egregious ‘Māori gratitude day' commentary published in the NBR, are in fact racist.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Sir Robert Jones abandons defamation case against Renae Maihi 

Sir Robert Jones has dropped his defamation case mid-trial against Renae Maihi, who set up a petition after he wrote an article which suggested Māori should be grateful to Pākehā for existing. 
In a statement provided to the Herald, Jones said he had today "discontinued my proceedings against Maihi", and also understood she intended to take down her petition. 
"I filed these proceedings because I was deeply offended by Maihi's allegations. 
"I am not a racist," he said. 
"I now accept, however, Maihi's offence taking was a sincerely held opinion.

As if someone would present a petition to parliament to strip Jones of his knighthood if their offence taking wasn't a sincerely held opinion. Honestly!

For over five decades New Zealand has had to put up with Jones’ racist rants being widely disseminated. Even though there’s nothing new or significant about what he’s been saying, Jones has had free reign to pontificate about a country and topics he appears to know very little about. In effect he’s been running around lighting the fires of hatred that has assuredly caused people harm.

It’s not just Jones who is to blame though. Many media outlets facilitated his racism through publication. Editors could have easily put a stop to Jones’ animosity towards Maori, but instead idealised him and allowed their syndications to be used as propaganda tools for a privileged bigot! In my opinion these complicit editors need to be moved on.

People power may have won the day, but the bigger battle is getting New Zealand’s mainstream media to halt their prejudicial promotion of racism…and that seemingly unattainable goal might take more than the high court to resolve.

13 Feb 2020

Bob Jones - old racist prick!

So the guy who advocated for public burning and beheading feels offended because someone called him a racist!

Perhaps Bob Jones hasn't heard of the very old saying; Live by the sword, die by the sword?

I mean for someone who often writes opinionated nonsense about Maori; this is a ridiculous case to take and a complete waste of court time.

Yesterday, 1 News reported:

Debate about what constitutes racism as Sir Bob Jones defamation case continues 

Debate about what constitutes racism has been at the centre of day three of Sir Bob Jones’ defamation case in the Hight Court in Wellington. 
Sir Bob, one of the country’s richest people, is suing filmmaker Renae Maihi for defamation, accusing her of calling him a racist, the author of hate speech and saying he was unfit to hold a knighthood. 
Ms Maihi started an online petition in 2018 calling for Sir Bob to be stripped of his knighthood after he wrote a controversial National Business Review column. 
In it, he called for Waitangi Day to be replaced with ‘Māori Gratitude Day’, arguing that without British immigration Māori would not be alive today. The property tycoon said the column was harmless joking and the start of a satirical series about gratitude days.

I’m not sure why 1 News cut Jones’ racist rant short. Here’s a small excerpt of his prejudicial drivel that was published by the National Business Review:

I have in mind a public holiday where Maoris bring us breakfast in bed or weed our gardens, wash & polish our cars & so on, out of gratitude for existing. And if any Maori tries arguing that if he/she didn't have a slight infection of Irish blood or whatever, they might be better for it, the answer is no sunshine."

So just to clarify, Bob Jones wants a return to slavery. It pains me to have to point this out but what Jones is saying isn’t satire. In reality his offensive idea is an attack on indigenous people from all around the world. Only a truly intolerant fool would promote a return to the bad old days of slavery and only an equally racist editor would put such decrepit ideas to print.

But now that someone has called Jones out on his racism, he doesn’t like free speech?

Clearly Renae Maihi was just saying and acting on what everybody else was thinking. Jones is a racist and racists simply shouldn’t be knighted in the first place. If by some idiocy, like the size of their bank accounts, they are knighted and continue to promote bigoted ideas, they should lose their award without any further ceremony.

That’s why at time of writing nearly 90,000 people have signed the Revoke racist "Sir" Bob Jones of his Knighthood petition. Over a thousand people have donated more than $40,000 to help Maihi’s considerable court costs as well.

One thing that racists often do is disregard indigenous people’s rights, culture and identity. Jones does this all the time and should therefore be considered a racist. If he’s not mocking Maori for their circumstances or appearance, he’s belittling Maori culture in some of the most widely read syndications in New Zealand.

Jones knows that the controversy he creates by claiming things like Maori are blackmailing the Crown with the Treaty of Waitangi, which is in fact a signed contract, ensures his articles attain significant readership. He also knows that having his divisive views appear as relevant commentary emboldens other racists.

Acrimonious old fools like Jones shouldn’t be promoted as being relevant. Their hatred simply shouldn't be published in the first place. If they are then it's the publics right to treat them with the contempt they deserve. But until such divisiveness ends New Zealand cannot hope to create a more inclusive and equal society.

4 Feb 2020

Oranga Tamariki must change

If you haven’t watched Newsroom’s video showing Oranga Tamariki staff attempting to uplift a newborn baby yet you should do so. Although it's not the worst case as far as interventions go, it’s certainly not a good look for the Government. Because of this controversy there’s been a plethora of articles written, many discussing the pros and cons of Oranga Tamariki.

However the debate has unfortunately become terribly polarised with many from both sides often resorting to mudslinging instead of participating constructively. Obviously the contentious and fractious nature of the topic matter isn’t very conducive to finding solutions that actually work.

On one side are those who’re outraged at the way Oranga Tamariki operates. Some believe that the failed system continues to be a by-product of colonialism and is committing genocide because of the disproportionate amount of Maori children being uplifted. A number of articles showing just how bad things are have been published, giving rise to people asking for the organisation to be completely overhauled or even shut down.

Of course it’s not only Maori who want things to change. Most of the people working on the front lines treating injured children want to see improvement as well. Many however are generally supportive of Oranga Tamariki’s work. Clearly some intervention to reduce harm and save lives is required because children’s futures are at stake. But everyone can see that the current ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach really isn’t working.

Yesterday, RNZ reported:

Oranga Tamariki review: 'Treatment of Māori women has been inhumane' - Dame Naida Glavish 
A report on Oranga Tamariki has revealed harrowing stories of the removal of Māori babies and is calling for a complete overhaul of the ministry. 
The Māori-led investigation, which started six months ago, is one of five into the ministry and was spearheaded by the Whānau Ora Commissioning agency. 
Official figures released by the Children's Commissioner in January showed Māori babies were five times more likely to end up in state care than non-Māori last year and their rate of urgent entries into state care has doubled since 2010.

It’s no secret that the disproportionate majority of children in the care of the Chief Executive are Maori, giving rise to justified grievances and criticism of the Government. Maori more than most therefore have a vested interest in fixing what is a noticeably broken and often culturally insensitive system.

Dame Naida Glavish, who chaired the governance group overseeing the review, said the report confirmed systemic failure and discrimination. 
"The Crown is not honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi. There's been unprecedented breaches of human rights and the treatment of Māori women has been inhumane." 
"We can clearly see from the volume of evidence and the heavy handed approach inflicted on this whānau that something is so systemically wrong. This entrenched behaviour is plain unjust," Dame Naida said.

Because of the Oranga Tamariki scandal, many have called for increased Iwi based services to keep mothers with their children. Thankfully we’re now seeing a slight move in the right direction. But it’s unlikely that the current Government’s commitment to change will be implemented on a scale required.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Oranga Tamaraki had needed change and there were signs of progress. 
"To date I think everyone would acknowledge that we did need change. It was only three years ago that Oranga Tamariki was created ... and so it really is still trying to find its feet as an organisation [it] is intended to be. 
"There are signs of what we're wanting to see. For instance we've got strategic partnerships with four iwi, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi, Waikato-Tainui and Tūhoe." There had also been a 42 percent increase in funding to iwi organisations working with children over the past two years, and a decrease in the number of Māori babies coming into state care, Ardern said.

It should be noted that the current administration is only undoing some of the destructive policy changes implemented by National and not rectifying most of the inherent problems that CYFs had and still does have now that it's operating under a different name and Government.

Children's Minister Tracey Martin said many of the cases in the review predate Oranga Tamariki, and was part of the reason the ministry was formed in the first place. 
She agreed Oranga Tamariki must be more local in its delivery of services, and said that validates the operating model she passed through Cabinet last year. 
Prevention and early intervention is key to actually turning around what has been historical - over decades - terrible outcomes for Māori children. 
"Already Oranga Tamariki has created strategic partnerships with some of the largest iwi in New Zealand.

Instead of owning the problem, the Government seems to have adopted a business as usual approach. Tracey Martin is correct that prevention and early intervention is the key, but the Minister appears to be working harder to close the politically damaging issue down instead of making any required or significant policy changes.

Public acceptance of the status quo and its continued failure to significantly reduce the number of abused children has diminished markedly. Instead of treating the symptoms, the Government must do more to treat the root causes. There are long-term solutions available like significant investment to reduce people's financial hardship and material deprivation. However there appears to be little willingness from both sides of the political spectrum to address the main drivers of domestic violence.

When it comes to an apparent bias against Maori, politicians aren’t gaining much traction with those who see ethnically based prejudices within the justice system inhibiting their societal and economic success. Evidently a societal bias is also leading to an increase of family violence within dysfunctional families. It cannot be emphasised enough that the number one cause of newborn babies being killed by parents is because of financial distress. The Government must therefore look at addressing the bigger picture here.

Along with other inherent biases in the system, studies show that severing the attachment bond increases a person’s likelihood of being detained at her Majesty's pleasure. Children who’re removed from their families are more likely to suffer from a number of negative consequences later in life, including academically. Unfortunately the Government and our Justice System puts little emphasis on these adverse impacts despite them being well documented.

It’s no coincidence that the disproportionate number of Maori children being uplifted by the state also equates to the percentage of Maori in jail. One could even be cynical enough to say that the private prison industry lobbies the Government for increased punitive measures and advocates for the removal of at risk children from their parents because it equates to a steady stream of profitable prisoners. The Government must do more to break this destructive cycle.

Combine the failings of Oranga Tamariki, such as a lack of properly trained staff, high attrition rates and improper vetting processes, with a deficiency of drug rehabilitation and violence reduction programs within communities and it’s little wonder the problem is becoming worse.

Without accredited programs how exactly are parents with children caught in the Chief Executives grasp meant to undertake let alone prove that they've been rehabilitated? The authorities are basically telling mothers, many being victims of domestic violence themselves, to simply change their and their partners behaviour without much if any help to do so.

It’s apparent that the current system, which puts too much emphasis on personal responsibility, is terribly unfair towards Maori and therefore must change if New Zealand is to become a more egalitarian society and consequently a safer place to live in.

1 Feb 2020

200,000 empty houses in New Zealand

I hope we all finally agree that there actually is a housing crisis in New Zealand? Unfortunately the last National led Government largely ignored the problem, with John Key even making things worse by selling thousands of state houses to National’s rich property investor mates.

Of course the housing crisis isn't just about a lack of supply. It’s also fuelled by a low waged economy and disproportionately high rental prices meaning many Kiwis are unable to save for a deposit. In fact a low owner occupancy rate is one of the largest problems facing our great nation. People simply aren’t invested in their communities anymore.

So it’s good to finally see some attention being given to the issue.

Today, NewstalkZB reported:

Empty houses for homeless: 'Phone call from Housing NZ not likely to change owners' minds'

Auckland Council and the Government are looking at alternative options to housing the city's homeless.

Mayor Phil Goff has suggested using so-called ‘ghost houses’ and asking their owners to open them up for housing New Zealand tenants.

Executive Officer of the New Zealand Property Investors Association Andrew King told Heather Du Plessis-Allan a property may be empty for a raft of reasons.

“There are all sorts of reasons why they could be empty. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be available to someone.”

He said he wouldn’t have a clue how many so-called ‘ghost houses’ are out there.

“I don’t think there’s any really good statistics on this.”

The negative effects resulting from these ghost houses, like homelessness, should not be underestimated. It’s obvious a failed market driven housing system that has resulted in many under-utilised assets throughout the country causes many social problems.

But I'm not sure that making requests to tenant ghost houses with homeless people will work. Many of these properties are worth millions of dollars and most speculators won't have a bar of helping out their fellow Kiwis because they think the benefits don't outweigh the risks.

So what is the extent of the problem? Well unlike the homelessness rate there are in fact reasonably good statistics to show how many ghost houses NZ has, which is something Andrew King would know if he bothered to read the news.

Yesterday, Newshub reported:

Push for people to allow homeless to live in empty investment properties

Auckland's housing crisis is now so bad the Mayor wants to try and convince people with empty investment properties to let homeless people live in them.

They're what are known as "ghost-houses" and they're becoming more and more common.

Now there's a push to get homeless people into them due to how limited supply is.

"We're not only having a housing crisis; it's turned into a housing disaster. We're seeing families actually borrowing money to pay the rent," said Bernie Smith from Monte Cecilia Housing Trust.

At the 2018 census, there were nearly 1.9 million dwellings in New Zealand.

Nearly 200,000 of those were unoccupied. The vast majority, nearly 40,000 were in Auckland.

With an average of 2.7 people per household in New Zealand these 191,649 unused properties could house around 517,452 people.

That’s more than half a million Kiwis that could be making better contributions to our economy through increased productivity. Instead, many people are forced to reside in overpriced and substandard housing, which is a drain on our health system not to mention an overall increase to human suffering.

These ghost houses are obviously a drain on our economy and simply limiting a few foreigners from purchasing property and failing to put any substantial downward pressure on house prices through increased supply clearly hasn’t helped to fix the housing crisis to the degree required.

Instead of leaving many thousands of Kiwis to remain the victims of a failed neoliberal ideology, which has resulted in incredibly overpriced housing with significant long-term costs to society, the Government must do more work towards moving people out of unhealthy homes; off park benches and into better more affordable housing. Reducing the number of empty houses would go a long way to achieving this worthy goal.

But unless house prices decline dramatically and over a sustained period of time, the speculators simply won’t relinquish their under-utilised property investments. The perverse incentive for them to simply leave houses unoccupied because the capital value of their properties keeps increasing each year is too strong, and clearly needs to be tackled through some targeted legislation.

Therefore the only option the Government logically has, if it wants to significantly reduce homelessness and find a realistic remedy to the other negative consequences caused by these ghost houses, is a targeted Empty House Levy to incentivise owners to rent or sell their unused properties. Anything less is just lip service.